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How to Preach with Grace and Truth in an Election Year

Five themes to prepare us and our congregations for Election Day.
How to Preach with Grace and Truth in an Election Year
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In my opinion, one of the most challenging passages in all Holy Scripture comes from Romans 12:17-18: “Do no repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. It if it possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

What scares me is the twice-repeated word, “everyone.

To frame it differently: Is the apostle Paul actually commanding me (and all Christians) to obey the words of Micah 6:8, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” when it comes to all my relationships? What if someone does not share my faith? What if I find a person’s political views repugnant? What if he or she votes differently than me?

The answer: “live at peace with everyone” (emphasis mine).[i]

Perhaps most vexing, I am not only instructed to personally obey these biblical injunctions, but as the shepherd of a local congregation, I am also called by God to preach, teach, and model them all the time—even (especially!) during a presidential election year.

That’s a daunting task that scores of clergy would like to avoid. Why? First, it feels overwhelming. Many of us are experiencing conflict fatigue. The polarization roiling our country and congregations has worn us down, draining out what remains of our creativity and motivation. For others, our divides seem insurmountable: What difference can a little ol’ preacher and a little ol’ sermon make? We are tempted to think it’s better to ignore addressing the sins and schisms afflicting us. Third, is the practical dimension: Where should the preacher even start? What texts and themes do we preach on?

Suffice it to say, in this article, I cannot begin to suggest solutions to all the spectacular struggles strangling us. However, I coauthored a book that offers tools some readers might find useful.[ii] Nevertheless, in what follows, I will present five approaches centered on five homiletical topics: two are explicitly theological and three involve virtue formation. These are themes which could prepare us, and our congregations, for Election Day: November 5, 2024.

Preach on the Kingdom of God

Oftentimes, our reactions to the prevailing political-partisan exigencies are due to a lack of perspective. Yes, who is elected President of the United States is important. It matters and holds profound consequences for people, policies, and nations.

However, it is easy to be so consumed with the media hype and heated rhetoric that we lose sight of Paul’s admonition in Colossians 3:1-3: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Whoever is elected, Jesus Christ is still Lord of all, and the King of Kings is still seated on his throne. The success of his kingdom is not dependent on or beholden to any candidate or platform. Christianity has thrived for thousands of years in all kinds of cultures and structures and under all kinds of leaders—from righteous to depraved (although leaders are often more complicated and their impact and legacy is more mixed than our social-media driven, hot-take addicted, click-bait culture would have you believe).

Preachers, let’s redirect the attention of our people back onto the eternal King and his powerful, everlasting reign.

Consider doing a series of sermons on passages such as:

  • Matthew 18:1–5,
  • Matthew 20:20–28
  • Matthew 22:15-22
  • John 18:33-37

Preach on Unity

Another topic is Christian unity. What is “unity” exactly? It is certainly not uniformity. God created and exults in numerous forms of diversity in the body of Christ, including maleness and femaleness, ethnicity, spiritual gifts, geography, and more.

I define unity as “many diverse parts interconnected to form one body (1 Cor. 12) established by the cross (Eph. 2:11—22) through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-14). Unity is nourished and maintained through connection to Jesus, ‘the true vine’ (John 15:1).”[iii] This is precisely why Jesus passionately prayed for our unity (John 17).

Our identity and bond in Christ transcend our allegiance to all politicians, policies, ideologies, parties, and forms of government. Who we vote for is temporal, who we are as God’s people is eternal. Knowing this should lessen—or at least reframe—our disagreements.

Preachers, let’s declare the wonders of God’s grace expressed in his new, beloved, diverse—yet united—community constituted through Jesus Christ. We are a sign and witness to the world revealing God’s character and redemptive plan.

Consider doing messages based on texts such as:

  • Psalm 133
  • John 15
  • John 17
  • Revelation 7:9-17

Preach on Humility

I am convinced most of the rancor within the church would significantly dissipate if each person and congregation devoted most of their efforts to “walking humbly” with God and other Christians.

Imagine what our communities would look like if we made it our sole ambition to obey Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each to the interests of the others.”

What would it look like if we truly believed “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and as fallen creatures we still wrestle against sin in our bodies (cf. Rom. 6-7)? What breakthroughs might we see if the body of Christ focused on repenting of our idols of “pride and rightness”[iv]?

Humility is necessary to receiving and embodying the gospel. It sets us apart and indicates we belong to Jesus Christ, the one who forfeited his glory to suffer and set vile sinners free.

Preachers, let’s pronounce the potency of humility.

Consider drawing from the following options:

  • 2 Chronicles 7:13-15
  • Philippians 2:1-11
  • James 4:6-10
  • Romans 3:21-31

Preach on Kindness

The old adage, “kill them with kindness” is not in the Bible, but it’s pretty close to the truth. Scripture commands believers to be kind to those inside and outside the family of God.

Lest we misunderstand, kindness should not be confused or conflated with “do-goodism” or “tolerance.” Rather, it involves a posture of genuine caring and a commitment to acts of service. A “mean Christian” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

Preachers, let’s herald the holiness reflected in Christ-like kindness.

A few options are:

  • Exodus 34:6/ Psalm 103:8
  • Colossians 3
  • Galatians 5:13-26
  • 1 Corinthians 13

Preach on Charity

Christians are the recipients of a grace we do not deserve; knowing our glaring unworthiness, how could we possibly refuse to dispense grace to others?

John writes that Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Yet Christians often savor and ladle out the latter characteristic, while quickly forgetting about the former.

This was not the case with the early church. The Book of Acts repeatedly catalogues the generous economic sharing believers engaged in (cf. Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37, etc.).

Tim Keller, among many others, has highlighted how Christians were famous for their charity:

The early Christians were a community known for radical giving. Diognetus … was not a Christian, but an opponent of Christianity, who was listing the things that made it so frustrating to refute the Christian “heresy.”

They share their table with all, but not their bed with all. They are poor and make many rich; they are short of everything and yet have plenty of things. (Letter to Diognetus, c.100-150 A.D.).[v]

Oh, that Christians be known yet again for being generous in every way—with our time, resources, words, and countenance, just to name a few! What fame and glory would this bring to Jesus!

Preachers, let’s announce charity as a gorgeous attribute of Christ, now conferred upon his children.

To do so, draw from the following passages:

  • Leviticus 25/ Luke 4
  • Proverbs 11:24-25, 14:31
  • Matthew 25:31-46
  • 2 Corinthians 8-9

Conclusion

As we roll into another election cycle, the call to “live at peace with everyone” is most pertinent—even urgent. Thankfully, shepherds and their flocks have been equipped for this moment.

We have the wealth of Scripture to feast on, motivate, and guide us as we navigate the chaotic clashes in our culture. We possess the resources required to promote the Prince of Peace. Let us harness them with skill and courage until the King returns, and his kingdom has fully come.

[i] John Stott helpfully labels Romans 12:17-21 as “Our relationship to our enemies: not retaliation but service.” John Stott. Romans: God’s Good News for the World. Downers Grove: IVP, 1994, 334.

[ii] Matthew D. Kim and Paul A. Hoffman. Preaching to a Divided Nation: A Seven-Step Model for Promoting Reconciliation and Unity. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022. This article is adapted from that book.

[iii] Kim and Hoffman, Preaching to a Divided Nation, 22.

[iv] Kim and Hoffman, Preaching to a Divided Nation, 34-36.

[v] Tim Keller. “The Gospel and giving.” Redeemer Report, December 2019. https://www.redeemer.com/redeemer-report/article/the_gospel_and_giving. Emphasis original.

Paul A. Hoffman is senior pastor of Evangelical Friends Church of Newport, Rhode Island. He is an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is the co-author of 'Preaching to a Divided Nation' and author of 'Reconciling Places: How to Bridge the Chasms in Our Communities.'

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