Now That the Election Is Over

John Wesley had this advice for those Methodists who had votes in an ensuing election: “Vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy, speak no evil of the person they voted against, and, take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.” —John Wesley’s Journal, Oct. 6, 1774.

That advice is fascinating knowing that he told the story of a disagreement between his parents that led to serious consequences. A couple of years before John was born, one morning after family prayer, his father, Samuel said to his mother, Susannah, “Why did you not say amen this morning to the prayer for the king?” “Because,” said she, “I do not believe the prince ofOrangeto be king.” “If that be the case,” said he, “you and I must part; for if we have two kings, we must have two beds.” Samuel went to his study for a while, then went toLondonwhere he worked for the remainder of the year. The following spring, King William died and since both Samuel and Susannah agreed to the legitimacy of Queen Anne’s title, the cause of misunderstanding ceased. In John’s words, “Samuel returned home and conjugal harmony was restored.” You have to wonder if this had any bearing on Wesley’s caution about allowing political differences to come between Christians. Either way, his admonition is one we need to heed today.

I am most disappointed by the rhetoric that is less interested in discussing the issues and more interested in vilifying the candidates. I heard much disrespect toward George Bush during and following his campaigns, and it has only gotten worse toward Barack Obama during and following his campaigns. We have every right to disagree with the policies and positions of candidates and of those who are elected to serve. We do not have the right to speak disrespectfully of them, to stretch the truth about them, to ignite hatred toward them, to denigrate them. Christians do not behave as though the attitude and spirit of Christ are incidental to our lives.

If the political landscape in this country is ever going to improve, Christians must take the lead. We must be the first people to refuse to engage in character assassination and disrespectful dialogue. And now is the time to prove that we are different—that we are more interested in loving than in winning, that we are more interested in relationships than in politics, that we believe that win or lose the only King is Jesus.

I am not advocating that we remain silent on issues that are central to thekingdomofGod. I am advocating that our words are bathed in prayer and love and the Spirit of Christ. It’s one thing to feel strongly about politics and social issues; it’s something else entirely to allow these differences to affect our behavior toward others.

If you hoped that President Obama would be re-elected, then be gracious toward those who had other aspirations. If you hoped that Governor Romney would be elected, then be gracious toward the followers of the President and toward the President himself. When all is said and done, we will not be judged on our political victories; “we will” in the words ofSt. Johnof the Cross (1542-1591) “be judged on love.”