In just over a week, this year’s general election will be in the process of wrapping up.

By Nov. 9, we (hopefully) will have the offices decided and are preparing to see some office-holders retain their seats and new officials take new positions in just a matter of weeks.

Whatever happens in the election, the reality “on the ground” won’t have changed. Our nation will remain as divided as it has ever been and our economy will remain in free-fall. At the local level, we still will not have found the single answer that cures all our woes. But new rivalries, factions and hatreds will certainly be a result.

I believe it is incumbent upon me, in my little voice I have here, to remind those who are running for office what the real duties of leadership entail. I’d never make a judgment on whether someone is a Christian or not, but I also don’t know of a single elected official or politician locally who professes a faith any other than a flavor of Christianity, so with that in mind, I point to the words we find in the scriptures of our faith.

In the Bible, in the letters of those who built the church following Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, there are words that point us in the right direction.

To the faithful in Thessalonica, Paul wrote the following:

“Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you.” — 1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

Paul tells the faithful to “live quietly,” to mind their own affairs. Some have interpreted this over the years to mean that Christians should not be involved in public life, and especially politics. Those believers may ultimately be right, but I also believe the Lord knows the realities of our times and situations.

The call to public service and the answer to that call, however, cannot be seen as more important that the call to love others. That is spelled out in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” — Ephesians 6:12

Just after writing about the realities of spiritual warfare and the need for the faithful to have defenses up, Paul reminds the believers that our true war is not against each other, but against those forces both deep in us and without us that stir us to greed, to the will for power, to hate and murder (with our deeds and words) our brothers and sisters. Even the person who strikes out against us, who defames us and persecutes us, is simply another broken human being who is being driven by forces they can only truly control by surrendering to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

When we wage war against the flesh, we ignore the realities of the spiritual war that is always raging around us.

So what do we do?

Paul wrote in his letter to the apostle Timothy that the faithful have a role in public life:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” — 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Paul was telling Timothy and the faithful to pray for leaders like Nero, the wicked Roman emperor in charge at the time the letter was written. Why? Aside from the aforementioned reality that the wars we wage should be focused on the true enemies — the forces driving people like Nero — the next lines explain why:

“This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” — 1 Timothy 2:3-4

In other words, our petty political squabbles and grudges simply are an obstacle to the fulfillment of the mission of the Lord of Lord and King of Kings, who desires not that our pride be fed nor that our personal wounds be avenged, but that all His children access His love and salvation.

This doesn’t prevent disagreement or working against policies that are harmful or not good, but does require that the spirit in which we do so be different than the one in which we tend to operate these days.

I challenge those whose names appear on the ballot to spend the next week not finding ways to tear down their opponents nor furthering the division which already hinders us, but instead to begin the process of mending fences and trying to create a better community together.

Although the temporal is often most affected by our words and actions, what’s at stake in some cases is eternal.

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