I haven’t said much since the election (at least in print/ social media) lately. Not that I haven’t had much on my mind – I have just been reluctant to put words to print. I have had many thoughts. I’m just not sure all of them have been deserving of the weight or attention that writing them down and posting them might bring. Does the world really need another blog post right now? Probably not
But of course I’m going to write one. Do whatever you want with it – read it, ignore it, share it, or tear it apart. I write as much to process my own thoughts as I do to convince you to consider yours. My hope in posting is that it may contribute to quiet introspection or to constructive dialogue. If instead I wind up merely adding noise to the cacophony of current opinions, be my guest to hit the mute button and move along. [I should disclose that I voted for neither Trump nor Hillary. I am one of those smug, idealistic independents who wasted their vote.]
The 2016 election is over (thank God). The outcome was a shock to most and has resulted in a wide variety of responses. In various ways, most of us are either licking our wounds, pumping our fists, losing our grip, gnashing our teeth, or just shaking our heads. Even many of those who voted for the victor aren’t quite sure what to make of that victory, or how excited they should really be. And while some on the left now fear for their safety and acceptance in the country they call home, others are being branded hateful racists and bigots by people they thought were their friends. I’d like to say the church would stand out as a refreshing exception to this, but the reality of my social media newsfeed would suggest we are really no better than anyone else. We might even be worse. The bride of Christ has had better days.
This election has been disillusioning, especially for many Christians in America. I was actually out of the country on Election Day, watching the returns in Spanish on CNN International with my Bolivian brothers and sisters after a long day at the hospital. When the results became clear the next morning, one of them asked me, “Did we win?”
Did we? Was this a rhetorical question? I really didn’t know how to answer. It was an awkward question, especially since the one asking it is not a fellow US Citizen, but is a fellow Christian. I think we stand to learn as much by asking the question as we do by answering it.
Jesus asked a similarly awkward question during Peter’s own moment of disillusionment. You see, even after Jesus had secured an unexpected cosmic victory for the ages, Peter had reason to be quite embarrassed. Having pledged to stick with Jesus after all else would leave (Matthew 26:33), he was the first (and only) to disavow him when a little girl outed him (John 18:15-18). Now even as the resurrected Jesus stands victorious and his disciples reassured, Peter is understandably unsure of where he stands with Jesus. He is certainly not bragging about loving Jesus more than everyone else any more.
But that’s when Jesus asks the most awkward, inappropriate question imaginable. With the disciples gathered together over breakfast, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these do?” (John 21:15). Not just “Do you love me?” but “Do you love me more?” And He asked in front of the others! Why on Earth would Jesus ask him to compare? How could he answer? Why would it matter? Peter did the only thing he could do. He dodged the question. “You know that I love you.” He just ignored the plea for comparison, and mercifully, so did Jesus. So why did he ask?
Just a few days earlier, Peter was all about comparing his love for Jesus with everyone else’s. Merely loving Jesus was not enough for Peter. He had to love Jesus more. Now, with his cowardice exposed, he had no hope of keeping up that charade. Asked to compare, he couldn’t. Unable to quantify it for purposes of comparison, he could no longer take pride in his love for Jesus. He could now only hope that Jesus would believe that he loved him at all, and on what evidence? Certainly not the recent past. Jesus’ response? He gives a command; “Feed my sheep.” The evidence of Peter’s love would no longer be to place himself above his brothers in comparison, but rather to place himself beneath them as their servant.
Many of us in the church can look around during this post-election season and compare ourselves with each other. The winners (who love Jesus more) will chide the losers for being whiners who care nothing for the unborn. The losers (who love Jesus more) will brand the winners as hateful racists bearing no resemblance to the Jesus they worship. The independents (who love Jesus more) will look at both with smug detachment and seek to distance themselves from this hot mess.
Except that we are all part of that hot mess.
To be a Christian is to be part of the Church Universal. To be a Christian in America is to be part of the church in America. The church is the body of Christ, and we are told that to despise that body, even part of it, is to drink judgement upon ourselves. (I Corinthians 11:18-29). So at this point, with the election behind us and the next four years ahead of us, I think we need to stop bickering about who was right and who was wrong and instead ask ourselves some tough, awkard questions – awkward because they both expose our misplaced priorities and can only be answered as we think and act differently moving forward.
Did we win?
What would that mean?
How will we tell?
I guess we’ll find out.
Do you love Jesus more than these do?
Does it matter?
We’ve got some sheep to feed.