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Giving Control Back to God

As our nation’s politics and social policies become increasingly polarized and upcoming elections come into focus, I have struggled with two beliefs that I cannot reconcile. First, Donald J. Trump is a liar, serial rapist, insurrectionist, racist, misogynist, and a xenophobe. His candidacy threatens to destroy the foundations of our republic. The evangelical Christians who resolutely support his ideas and actions are deluded. Their words and actions betray the gospel of Jesus.

Second, Donald Trump and his followers are dearly beloved children of God. As a Christian, I am commanded to act with compassion for them, help them in times of need, and treat them as brothers and sisters in Christ no matter how they act toward me or others. The Bible is clear: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you” (Matthew 5:44).

It is an ongoing battle to continue honoring both of these convictions. For the most part, I don’t think much about belief number two. The few times I’ve tried to engage a Make America Great Again (MAGA) person in conversation, I haven’t been able to find enough common ground to start a real discussion. Those experiences have bolstered belief number one. Furthermore, I suspect attempting a conversation will make the problem worse since MAGA folks tend to think anti-Trumpers like me see them as ignorant people who will not listen to facts or logic. So, the dynamic only adds to the animosity and division that already exists. 

There have always been political divides in this country, but the scope of the ones we are seeing today are as bad as any since the Civil War according to historians and pundits. I don’t have a clear solution to the issue. But, I believe the first step is to stop replicating the error others make. Christian nationalists and their supporters typically view themselves as “God’s warriors” deputized by God himself to take power by any means necessary to defeat the forces of evil (i.e., Democrats) that threaten their beliefs.

I easily fall into the mirror image of that trap and think I must do whatever I can to thwart those efforts. However, with that mindset I am ignoring a fundamental Christian principle. That God is Lord of all, including history. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus triumphed over the powers of this world. Whatever happens in the course of human events will not defeat God’s ultimate purpose. Whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins the next election or how the conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, or Iran are resolved, his victory is assured. God’s kingdom will come no matter what happens.

In the words of John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite theologian, “The triumph of the right is assured not by the might that comes to the aid of the right, which is of course the justification of the use of violence and other kinds of power in every human conflict. The triumph of the right, although it is assured, is sure because of the power of the resurrection and not because of any calculation of causes and effects, nor because of the inherently greater strength of the good guys.”

The bottom line is that we are not meant to fight God’s battles for him. We don’t need to involve ourselves in wars or insurrections to ensure they come about the “right” way. God calls us to be faithful, not powerful. Our duty is not to control history, but to be obedient to his will. That doesn’t mean we should blithely withdraw from the world and distance ourselves from its problems. We are commanded to actively love others, care for the needy in our midst, share the blessings we have received, and be faithful servants. The rest is up to God.

As I head into battle, I need to pause and remember that history is in God’s hands. I need to leave it there and go about the business he has given me: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him.

Image Credit: Pexels

About the author

Thomas Dybdahl has advanced degrees in theology, journalism, and law. A former Spectrum journalist and Adventist pastor, he retired as staff attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia where he worked in both the trial and appellate divisions and tried twenty-five homicide cases. His book, When Innocence Is Not Enough: Hidden Evidence and the Failed Promise of the Brady Rule (The New Press, 2023), tells gripping tales of crime and the wrongs done to the falsely accused when prosecutors don’t share evidence. More from Thomas Dybdahl.
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