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Empathy and Charity: How Christians Can Respond to Election 2016

7. Rejoice in signs of hope in this politically discouraging time.

Like many, I am gravely concerned about where our society is. But I find a lot to be encouraged by, as well, and it has nothing to do with Trump’s election.

Many evangelicals demonstrated in this election cycle that they are not mere partisan pawns of the Republican Party. Many broke ranks and spoke publicly against Trump’s deficiencies of character and his carelessly heinous statements. Even though they believed in certain principles often associated with the GOP—such as limited government, religious liberty and a pro-life platform—they found Trump so distasteful in his character and so poor a champion of those very ideals, that they either could not support him or did so with a great deal of reservation. This has to be a good development.

I think this season also allowed many black and white evangelicals to begin some conversations they really need to have. Something about the circus of Trump’s candidacy allowed black evangelicals to explain to their white brothers and sisters what bothers them about latent racism in America in a way they could understand. And because of their inability to get excited about Trump, many white evangelicals were able to explain what it is about the traditional Democratic platform that they find so objectionable without looking like mere Republican shills. This is an encouraging conversation, and needs to continue.

What black, white and Hispanic evangelicals have in common in Christ is greater than any political perspective that divides them, and in this election cycle, this unity has enabled them to have some of these conversations with the comfort that comes from knowing you are safe with a beloved brother and sister in Christ. We’ve just watched a political season marked by by radical division. We in the church have the unique opportunity to show the world supernatural unity.

I was really encouraged by an article that Rick Warren posted recently, “Why I have hope for America’s Soul.” He lists five things:

1. Faith flourishes in bad times: “People turn to God when everything else has left them empty, disappointed, and betrayed. Inevitably materialism, hedonism and the worship of self is a dead end… America has had two Great Awakenings and many smaller spiritual revivals in our short history. All of them happened in times of difficulty or rapid cultural change… The most recent revival occurred when tens of thousands of ‘60s hippies became Jesus People in the ’70s, launching thousands of new churches across America.”

2. The Millennial generation is asking the right questions about life. Like Rick Warren, our church is flooded with millennial spiritual seekers—over 40 percent of our attendance each weekend are millienials.

3. America is still filled with tens of millions of God-honoring people.

4. The world, as a whole, is becoming more devout, not more secular. “The recent Pew Research Center study revealed that around the world the ‘unaffiliated’ group will grow by about 100,000,000 people between 2010 and 2050. But the Christian Church will grow by 750,000,000 in the same period—seven times faster—which will actually decrease the percentage of ‘nones’ on the planet. The future of the world is not secularism, but religious pluralism with one out of three people identifying as a follower of Jesus.”

5. God (still) promises to hear humble prayers.

Amen. Let’s be excited about what God is doing in our generation and what it means for the future of our country.

In the days to come, we at The Summit Church plan to keep doing what we’ve always done—preaching the Word, loving our world and reaching people with the gospel. Because the everyday work of God’s people is always the most important and enduring work there is. When the church trusts God, hearts are changed, walls come tumbling down and impossible things become possible. The early church, after all, had no budget, no political power, no buildings…and they turned the world upside-down. We have the same power of the Spirit that they did, and I, for one, intend to follow God boldly into his mission.

May God lead our nation to repent and turn to him. But more than that, may he purify and send out his church into the world.

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.