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Fight Political Fear with Kingdom Hope

In 1984, two of my Christian friends lived together in Washington, DC, as summer interns. One worked full-time to elect Walter Mondale and Democrats. The other worked full-time to elect Ronald Reagan and Republicans. In August, as they returned to California for their last year of college, they laughed that each probably canceled out the efforts of the other.

How many Christian friends would enjoy the same kind of summer together in 2024?

Way too many of us care way too much about who’ll win this year’s presidential election. Though the partisan fires didn’t burn as hot 40 years ago, Richard Lovelace observed a similar spirit then:

Every four years the American people elect a new president with the hope that somehow this will make things better. Economic downturns, crop failures, moral declines and worsening international conditions are all blamed on presidents—who in most cases have little control over events. In the hearts of the people is a groping, inarticulate conviction that if the right ruler would only come along, the world would be healed of all its wounds.

If I’m honest, presidential elections have meant way too much to me. I spent the first decade of my adult life in Washington, DC, including a six-year stint as a political lobbyist for Apple Inc. I know what it is to live and breathe politics as a Christian. During the 1992 election, the Lord began to proportion my political energies with the gospel message revealed in Daniel 2. I’ve returned to the book of Daniel every election year since.

Political History’s Kingdom Climax

In Judah’s exile to Babylon, Daniel sees God’s people suffer on a massive scale. He later sees the Babylonian empire vanquished by the Persians. For Daniel, the question that surfaces is whether the rise of global empires rendered God’s kingdom moot. Despite all the bloodshed and appearances to the contrary, the Book of Daniel’s answer is an emphatic no.

In Daniel 2, the prophet interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, where an uncut stone struck and destroyed a great statue representing the world’s mighty empires. Daniel tells us that stone represents God’s kingdom, and he sees God’s kingdom as the climax of all political history: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed. . . . It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms [our world’s successive empires] and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (v. 44).

If we read all of Daniel, we note how powerful, awesome, and dangerous the kingdoms of men are. It’s no wonder that, while working in DC, I felt the oxygen sucked out of my chest when I passed a standing president in the doorway.

But Daniel calls us to be captivated by something even more awesome: the kingdom of God. At the end of history, all empires (including America), will be like chaff scattered to the wind (v. 35). Only one empire will be left standing: Jesus’s kingdom. The Lord’s Prayer has us praying for this: “Thy kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in heaven.”

Our Undue Fear and Hope

This frees us to put every political election into perspective. Daniel encourages us to resist undue fear this year. God’s kingdom can’t be hindered by any president. He says, “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people” (v. 44).

Scripture encourages us to resist undue fear this year. God’s kingdom can’t be hindered by any president.

It has never been easy to be a follower of Jesus (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). Daniel’s friends survive execution by furnace. Daniel survives execution by lions. Despite the dangers, Daniel urges us to keep our eyes on the only kingdom that endures. If Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome cannot stop God’s kingdom, neither can any president in our day.

Daniel also exhorts us to resist undue hope: the kingdom of God isn’t established by any political leader but by God himself. Daniel says, “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom . . .”

What the World Needs Most

While working in DC, I volunteered in a college ministry. A retreat speaker once asked the students, “If God made you king or queen of the world, what would you do?”

Students struggled to come up with initiatives worthy of such power. One said he’d make sure every person is offered a great education. Another said she’d distribute the world’s food equitably among all. But the room grew restive. No one felt they were taking full advantage of global sovereignty. One student said, “I’d make sure every kid had a loving family.” How does one politically affect genuine family love? Finally, another asked, “Can we make everyone become a Christian?” The exercise broke down. At this point, everyone saw they couldn’t affect the world’s deepest needs through politics.

This exercise was arresting for me. If global sovereignty was so limited in its effects, what was a puny political affairs professional hoping to accomplish? I have friends who’ve contributed much through politics over the decades. But it’s critical to realize Jesus doesn’t need your candidate to win for him to establish his kingdom.

Our Responsibility

So as we vote this year, let’s turn down the anxiety and frenzy. Billions of dollars and man-hours are being spent to call this the most important election of your lifetime. I’m 61 years old. I’ve been told this every four years. I no longer buy it.

Jesus doesn’t need your candidate to win for him to establish his kingdom.

Instead, let’s humbly seek the Lord’s will, consider the issues and candidates, and confer together as “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17). Then let’s vote lovingly and respectfully, knowing Jesus’s kingdom isn’t ultimately dependent on the election’s outcome.

And if the relational bonds of your faith community are being fractured by politics, lovingly name the real problem, as 18th-century pastor John Newton did: “Faintly the power of the gospel is felt.” Paul so deeply felt that the gospel was the “power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16) that he never worried about who Caesar was. Oh, that Jesus would make us so experience his kingdom as the pearl of great price and as the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44–46) that we can get our heart-claws out of politicians and into our eternal king, Jesus himself.


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