Taking the Election Personally
Posted: October 29, 2020
A call for humility and grace…
Pastor George Garrison continues his occasional series, "Thursday Thoughts," on topics prompted by the American struggle with COVID-19, racial inequality, and a presidential election in a deeply divided nation.
“Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.” There is a lot of wisdom in that maxim.
I embraced it at an early age in my involvement in athletics. If one comes out on the winning side, there should be the humble acknowledgment of the worthiness of their opponent. The line separating winners and losers is often razor thin and painted by events beyond either side’s control. And our nation’s history has frequently confirmed that fact in presidential elections in the distant and recent past.
If one comes out on the losing side, that loss should be tempered with the conviction that the winning team competed just as hard as you did, and that although it “wasn’t your time” this time, that doesn’t give you the right to be bitter or critical of the winner. Underlying the humility in victory or the graciousness in defeat is the acknowledgment of respect for the other side.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how we need to take the upcoming election personally. By that I meant we need to remember that any candidate is first and foremost a person, worthy of respect and dignity separate from their particular views because they are made in the image of God.
Now five days removed from “the most important election in our nation’s history,” we need to be sure that as believers we take the election personally toward each other. We do this by treating those who disagree and vote differently from us with the same dignity and respect mentioned above for the candidates. And yet we go even further in how we treat them as the brothers and sisters in the faith that we are. Like many of you, I know thoughtful, sincere believers I greatly respect on both sides. What that should tell all of us is that the issues themselves are greatly nuanced and too complex for a consensus among believers. To post “I don’t know how you can vote for (insert candidate’s name here) and call yourself a Christian,” not only overly simplifies the issues, it overtly demeans a fellow brother or sister in Christ.
So the most important election in our nation’s history has presented us as believers with the most important response to an election in our nation’s history. I would venture to say that the manner in which we Christians communicate with each other after the election may be ultimately more important than at any time prior. Will the world see believers who are humble in victory and gracious in defeat, or will it see no shortage of “Praise God, the right person won!” or “I hope all of you who voted for __________ are happy when our country goes completely off the rails!” (not to mention a wide range of other statements not suitable to print).
But what if our reactions were humble and gracious, not just because it’s a tested maxim from life’s experiences, but because it is the very command of Scripture. says (and yes, spoiler alert for this Sunday’s sermon!), “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” What if the world saw in Christ’s followers that what unites us as believers transcends political allegiance? What if we took the election personally, not only because how we treat each other as persons is important, but because what truly unites us as believers is the person and work of Christ?
There’s no small amount of talk of militant action and even a possible civil war in the aftermath of next Tuesday. We should all be diligently in prayer that God in His mercy and grace would thwart such efforts. And we should also be in prayer that as believers we don’t miss this great opportunity for the world to see how we treat each other post-election, and especially what we post, post-election. The world needs to see that what unites us is not a cause or a position, but a Person. Only because of Him we are ultimately all on the same winning side. Because we have the victory only in Him, how can we be anything but humble?
So grateful to be united in victory with all of you,
Editor's Notes: See also John Piper's article "
Links to Scripture references go to BibleGateway, where you change translatioins, listen to an audio version of the passage, and find other resources to dig deeper into what Jim is saying.
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Search all articles byGeorge Garrison is Senior Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois. • E-mail the author (ten.nairetybserpleunammi@egroeg*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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