The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. – 1 Timothy 2:1
How would Jesus vote? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the past few months. If Jesus lived in my neighborhood, how would he vote on Tuesday? That question has caused me to reflect on the priorities that I hear Jesus teach and see Jesus live in the Gospels. Here are a few of the conclusions I’ve come to.
Jesus was for the poor and the powerless. Mary proclaimed these words about the child in her womb, “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51-52) Reflecting God’s preference for the poor and powerless Jesus embraced the outcast, the widow and the sick, those whom society deemed “unworthy”. I think Jesus would vote for the candidates who reflected that preference for the poor and the powerless.
Jesus advocated for peace and reconciliation. Jesus taught his disciples, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31) Jesus had the power to destroy his enemies, but he responded to them with love and forgiveness. I think Jesus would vote for the candidates who advocate that understanding of power.
Jesus embodied inclusion, not exclusion. Jesus consistently and intentionally defied his culture’s understanding of who was “in” and who was “out”. In fact, Jesus erased the lines and declared that all are “in”, all are worthy, loved and accepted. Tax collectors, women, Samaritans, Romans, hookers and crooks – all were welcomed at the banquet of Jesus’ extravagant love. I think Jesus would vote for the candidates who work to build community rather than barriers.
Jesus was for the world, not just for Israel. When Jesus was born, the angels declared that his birth was good news for all people. And as the early Church listened to the Holy Spirit they discerned that Jesus came, not just to bless the nation of Israel but the whole world. As Paul put it, “Through [Jesus] God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth…”. (Colossians 1:20) I think Jesus would vote for the candidates whose leadership vision went far beyond what is good for America, but for what is good for all people and for the planet that sustains us.
As I think about this election these are some of the core values I want to consider in the candidates for whom I will vote. And even with these guiding principles the choices are not easy. Advocating for inclusion does not mean we don’t need to tend to our borders. How we best care for the poor and powerless often divides us along party lines.
And perhaps that why it’s worth considering one more priority that I see expressed in Jesus’ life: Jesus valued prayer. Before choosing his disciples, Jesus spent a night in prayer (Luke 6:12-13). I suspect that many of us have already made up our minds about who we’ll vote for, but I wonder if we’ve prayed about it. Have we given time and space for the Holy Spirit to speak into us? If you’re reading this blog before you vote I hope you’ll pause and pray and be open to the Spirit. And if you’ve already voted, or if the election is already over by the time you read this blog remember this: we’re electing leaders, not saviors. The mystery of God’s will is woven into the fabric of history no matter who sits in the Oval Office, the Supreme Court, Congress or the Senate.
I appreciate this prayer offered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and commend it to you:
Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment
so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN