If you’re frustrated by the first presidential debate from a couple weeks ago and (quite possibly) the overall political climate of America, this post is for you.
Know this: I am not making comments about any one leader or any one political party. Based on many conversations I’ve had and posts I’ve seen, people feel “frustrated,” “angry,” and “hopeless” regarding many parts of our current political situation. That’s what I’m addressing here.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe what is tolerated or even celebrated by our political parties and even our country as a whole. When political leaders (and potential political leaders) get away with morally unacceptable actions, it’s easy to wonder: How do people do such terrible things and still find success? Where is God in all of this?
Psalm 37, written over 3000 years ago, speaks surprisingly well into this thought. In fact, David assures his readers to not be surprised when people do bad things but live prosperously for a time (even a long time). However, David also makes it clear that this reality is not grounds for losing hope.
Psalm 37 speaks into a time of social unrest. The Israelites were surrounded by wicked people who did not follow God, lived openly in sin, yet still prospered. Those who lived righteously in Israel were frustrated, even envious (Psalm 37:1).
Similar to many of our thoughts today, the Israelites wondered, How can these people get away with doing evil—and even prosper—while we suffer? How is this right? Where is God in all of this?
David addresses these thoughts with Psalm 37:27-29:
“Turn away from evil and do good;
So you shall dwell forever.
For the Lord loves justice;
He will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
But the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land
And dwell upon it forever” (emphasis added).
Throughout the psalm, David points the Israelites back to this idea: The Lord will bring justice in His time. The wicked will not prosper forever; the righteous will receive an eternal blessing from the Lord. Until then, do good.
David’s call to the Israelites was clear. Delight in the Lord, trust in Him, wait patiently on Him. And do good. Just because others get away with evil for a time doesn’t mean you should stop living a life honoring to the Lord.
I want us to be careful in bridging the gap between what this psalm meant for the Israelites in the 1000s BC and what it means for us today. The application isn’t immediately obvious because America is not a “chosen nation” set apart by God like Israel. And in the realm of politics, we simply cannot say that one main political party is “righteous” while another is “wicked.” There are good liberals. There are good conservatives. The lines aren’t quite so black and white.
So what can we take away from this psalm?
- Regardless of party lines, we shouldn’t be surprised when people do bad things and get away with it. Not all politicians are bad, but some are. Many will rake in success despite their moral failures. This has been going on for literally thousands of years.
- No matter how anyone else chooses to live, we can commit ourselves to doing good. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re called to do as people of God.
- While we call this earth our home, our circumstances will often feel unsteady. Our hope must be grounded in something greater than politics.
I want to capitalize on that last point. American politics are important, but they are not everything. We will be more than overwhelmed if we look there for a sense of stability or hope.
But we have good news. There’s a story going on behind the scenes and we know how this story will play out. It’s called the story of redemption. And this is where we find our hope. Christ will come back, God will bring justice in His time, righteousness will prevail.
In the meantime, continue praying over our political climate. Pray for our leaders, and for those who serve as checks and balances to our leaders. Don’t allow differing political beliefs to bring division between you and other believers—and really, between you and other people.
I know many are feeling a very specific frustration: How can I give my vote to a person/party that has messed up so bad? What happens when I feel that both main sides seem “so far gone”?
It’s messy, and I don’t claim to have many answers in the realm of politics, but here’s a thought that helps me. A wise friend of mine pointed out, “God’s justice does not fully depend upon a political outcome.” While I personally believe that voting is important, I also know that my vote won’t solve the world’s problems in one go; neither will it mess up God’s good plan.
Does this mean I take my vote less seriously? Definitely not. My goal is not to downplay the importance of laws and policies that are or are not passed. Laws, policies, and leaders have real consequences and real effects on individuals, families, and communities. But I also know that sometimes all of this feels too heavy to bear well. And sometimes, in order to move forward, we need the reminder that American politics are important, but they are not everything.
So my encouragement to you: Voting is not black and white. Seek justice and goodness and truth as best you can, and live it out. But as you do so, keep your eyes on the bigger story of redemption at play. For it is there that you will find lasting hope.