Minds, Hearts, Hands, Elections
Polls show that there is more anxiety over this presidential election than any in recent memory. My daughter is old enough to vote for the first time this year, and I have said many times to her that I hate that this is her first election to vote in.
As we think about the election the first thing I want you to know is that I will never try to tell you how to vote – from the pulpit or in writing. I know both conservative and liberal ministers who do this, but I trust you to make that decision. In our Reformed tradition we believe deeply in freedom of conscience.
During my ministry I have criticized and praised politicians from both the left and the right when I believe my comments are within the teachings of our faith and sacred text, but that is different than telling you how to vote. In fact, for all of the people who seem to know how Jesus would vote, we don’t know that either. However, Jesus does give us help during this anxious time.
Jesus instructs his disciples to have the "toughness of a serpent and the tenderness of a dove." Some have interpreted this to mean that we need "a tough mind and a tender heart." As we go to the polls, these are good words to consider.
A tough mind thinks for itself. It listens to others’ ideas and opinions, and then draws its own conclusions. A tough mind thinks not only decisively, but also incisively. It uses critical judgment to distinguish fact from fiction. The tough mind carefully sifts through all the arguments before determining which are true and which are false. Conversely, a soft mind seeks quick, easy answers for complex and complicated problems. It is willing to believe almost anything if someone in authority says it.
The gospel demands a tough mind. It also demands a tender heart – one that understands and cares and gives and forgives. It values people, not as a way to advance an agenda, not as a means to an end, but as ends in themselves. A tender heart is moved by the pains and afflictions of others and looks for ways to show compassion. A hard heart, by contrast, is cold and detached, uncaring, uninvolved, and dismissive. It avoids the sorrows and sufferings of others.
Jesus tells us that whoever the candidates are, however we vote, we need tough minds to sort out what is genuine about each of the candidates and what isn't. Jesus also expects us to have tender hearts – hearts that are open to the needs of others.
When we have used our tough minds and tender hearts and the votes have been counted, we will then need one more thing. Open hands. Given the tone and tenor of this campaign, accusations that the election is rigged, and the possibility that one of the candidates will not accept its results, my prayer is that there will be no post-election violence. So I turn to the words of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Speaking to those who disagreed with him, Wesley said:
"Give me your hand. I do not mean be of my opinion; you need not, I do not expect it or desire it, neither do I mean I will be of your opinion. I cannot. Keep your opinion and I mine, as steadily as ever. You need not endeavor to come over to me, or bring me to you. I do not desire you to dispute points or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Only give me your hand. We must act as each is fully persuaded in their own mind. Hold fast that which you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same. Let all these smaller points stand aside. If your heart is as my heart, if you love God and all humankind, I ask no more. Simply, give me your hand."
Praying for peace,