It's unseasonably warm in Wisconsin this morning — brilliant sunshine, cloudless skies, and a forecast high of 72 degrees Fahrenheit! It's hard to believe it is November 5th!
And it's also hard to believe that November 5th has finally dawned after 21 months of often mind-blowing and mind-numbing campaigning. It's the morning after the night when Barack Obama, the new President Elect of the United States of America, was hailed by tens of thousands of adoring supporters in Grant Park in Chicago, when the cheers in Times Square echoed in New Jersey, and when brave Senator McCain's words of congratulation to the President Elect were drowned by boos from his disappointed supporters in Phoenix, Arizona.
Out of the sun's warmth this gorgeous morning, there's what we used to call in my native England "a nip in the air." The trees stand stark and stripped of leaves, and the waters of the lake beneath my study window are chilled as the Canadian Geese, which have prematurely terminated their southern migration in Wisconsin, paddle serenely by.
That's how it is in America this morning, and I suspect that's how it will be for the foreseeable future: brilliant prospects for the majority, cloudless horizons for those in whose hearts new hopes have been born, and chill forebodings of anything from a wild leftward swing politically to global apocalyptic fears for the minority.
As I write, it's too early to know which way the "evangelical vote" was divided between the candidates. But if my conversations with friends and colleagues before the election are anything to go by, I suspect that this morning some of my brothers and sisters are basking in the sunshine and others are huddling against the chill wind.
How can this be? How can men and women who acknowledge the same Lord, serve the same Master, are indwelt by the same Spirit, and are nourished and informed by the same Bible, arrive at differing political conclusions? Could it be that — say it quietly! — when it comes to election time, we become more partisan than pious and feed on political rhetoric rather than biblical reflection? Is it possible we neglect praying for wisdom and substitute simply "voting our pocketbook"?
Well, I'm sure this is possible, but I think the realities we must all face are not hard to discern. First, nobody has the mental or spiritual capacity because of innate fallen-ness to understand everything — biblical truth or political reality — completely or grasp things perfectly.
For the same reason, nobody is exempt from the heavy burden of a fallen nature so that it becomes difficult at times to hear the Spirit's promptings without the possibility of distortion or to look at our world without prejudice.
Third, living in a fallen world means we are confronted by a bewildering cacophony of voices — compelling, contradictory, and competitive — that demand our concern for an equally bewildering variety of problems that scream for attention and demand solution.
So some of us major on the issue of poverty and others on the problem of security, and then it becomes a matter of priority.
In other words, the situation in which we, limited by our fallen-ness, find ourselves is so demanding because of pervasive fallen-ness on every hand that solving it all and fixing it all lies beyond our human capability!
Does this mean then that we give up on our world, circle the wagons, and wait for Jesus to appear in glory with trumpets sounding like the celestial cavalry appearing on the horizon in the nick of time, in the glow of sunrise, to rescue us from the threatening hordes?
Well, we certainly embrace with unshakable confidence the glorious hope that He will return and ultimately His kingdom will come! But we are called to the monumental task of bringing in the kingdom in the here and now and certainly have no divine mandate simply to wait for it to come in the there and then. And that clearly means being involved as citizens of heaven who have something unique to offer to our fellow citizens of this nation and the world.
But what do we have to offer that's unique? First, a worldview that insists that "this is my Father's world," that it is fallen, and that God intends to get it back and is busy doing it through the Risen Christ at work in His people — the church. Our understanding of fallen-ness — that pernicious twisting, warping, and polluting of everything and everybody that God created beautiful — is a profound compelling reality that must inform our approach to individual lives, societal behavior, and international relations.
Second, a conviction that all people are created in the divine image and are, therefore, infinitely precious and must be objects of our concern and compassion, not because we have become incredibly altruistic, but because "the love of Christ compels" us.
Third, because we recognize we are infinitesimal parts of a vast eternal plan, a humble attitude should not be too hard to come by. But on the other hand, because we are part of that plan, we know deep in our hearts we have a significant role to play in our sphere of influence, and we seek to fulfill it with grace and good humor.
Fourth, because we are aware that we don't know it all and recognize that others who differ from us could actually be right, we listen as well as speak, we learn as well as teach, and we have the grace to admit when we're wrong and the courage to change when it is clearly called for.
Last night in Grant Park, the President Elect said, "It's been a long time coming. But tonight, because of what we did on this date, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America."
Political rhetoric? Yes! Nothing more? Change in which direction? Time will tell.
But whatever happens, Christians know who they are and what they're about. And they can go about their business of being agents of the change only God can bring about...the change in the hearts of men and women who have been put on enquiry by the caliber of life lived out before their eyes by citizens of heaven, temporarily resident as citizens of America and the world.