Our first President, the venerated George Washington, set an American tradition into motion when he stepped down from the presidential office on March 4, 1797. Many stood in awe as he willingly, purposefully, yielded power to America’s second president, John Adams. History tells us that when England’s King George III heard that Washington intended to return to farming he was perplexed. King George’s response was “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” Indeed, it takes humility and grace to transfer authority. And it takes grace from both sides of the electorate, grace from the American people.
Timothy speaks to authority; “First of all, then, I urge that supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2: 1-4
So, we, as Americans, choose to give honor and respect to those chosen by the people to serve. Regardless of who we voted for.
We have heard for months about how the presidential candidates are the least popular in modern history. We’ve heard how they are arrogant, crass, lacking compassion, crooked and elitist. To quote Augustus McCrae “I have exactly those same failings myself.” Honestly, don’t we all?
The question now is what, as Americans, moreover as Christians, are we to do with all this. Many of us have a tangle of emotions.
Listen and Pray
I submit that the most fruitful things we can do are to listen and to pray. Pray for the Obama family, pray for the Clinton family, pray for the Trump family and for all those recently elected. We need to pray for those who are celebrating and for those who are mourning and afraid. We need to pray for families that have been divided by this election, for neighbors who have been divided, maybe for reasons beyond this election. We need to reach out and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
We have been hurt and we have hurt one another. We need to seek forgiveness. But forgiveness is hard work. Yet, each one of us needs to do the hard work of forgiveness. We must seek forgiveness where appropriate and offer forgiveness at every opportunity.
Simply speaking with kindness can go a long way, whether on social media or face to face. Colossians 4:6 says “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” It says “always be gracious”, not just when we agree, but always. Easier said than done, I’ll admit.
Scripture is clear on our marching orders. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4
Unity and deference to one another is what God is asking of us. That means we need to reach out. We need to learn to listen again. We need to pray for the grace to reach out in kindness to people who are different than we are. I pray we can begin to embrace people of different races, different ideology, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different educational levels, even different religions. Our wide diversity is one of America’s greatest assets! I thank God for His vast creativity in making us all so different and yet we are all made in His image. (Genesis 1:27) If we can remember how to listen, then we can then begin to hear. If we can hear, then we can begin to understand. This is a high calling and we will need wisdom and grace. Thankfully God is generous with his wisdom when we ask. (James 1:5)
And wisdom serves us well. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18 Gentleness, mercy, sincerity, and peace. That sounds like a welcome change to me.
We can take our lead from our founding father and act in humility. And in doing so we follow the same example that he followed. The example set for us in the good book.
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:5-7.
Let this be our prayer. Amen.