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By March 4, 2016

[Editor’s Note: Story written by InterVarsity area director in LA, Matt Meyer.]

USA (InterVarsity) — It’s here, and unless you plan on spending the next nine months hiding under a rock (which might seem like a tempting option at times), there is no escaping it.

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(Photo Courtesy Barry Schwartz via Flickr)

It’s election season.

We all feel differently about election season. Some of us are political nerds who love following all the election coverage. Some of us are apathetic and could not care less about the upcoming election.

Some of us feel passionately about a particular candidate or particular issues. Some of us are more cynical and disengaged. Some of us identify as Republicans, some of us are Democrats, and many of us are Independents.

Some of us will be sad when the election is over, and some of us will wish it had been over months ago.

No matter how you’re feeling about the election, this particular time in the life of the USA provides a unique opportunity to be faithful witnesses to Jesus. With that in mind, here are a few guidelines I would like to humbly offer my brothers and sisters in Christ regarding our involvement in this election.

1. Engage.
One major principle to remember: Elections affect people and, as Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbors. God invites us to engage in this election season by asking the question, “How can I steward my vote in a way that is most loving to my neighbors in this country and around the world?”

2. Be informed.
If we want to accept this invitation and steward our votes well, we need to do our homework. This means we should discipline ourselves to look at both sides of an issue with an open mind, and try to find as much unbiased information as we can.

3. Be civil.
The most difficult aspect of this season is the widespread and alarming lack of civility in our conversations. Please remember: people who vote for a candidate you are not supporting are not idiots, they do not hate America, and they do not deserve to be called names or disrespected. There are brilliant, compassionate, thoughtful people on either side of many issues. We do not accomplish anything by stooping to the level of much of the ugly discourse in our country right now. One of the most powerful ways we can be witnesses in this season is by our willingness to be charitable, respectful, and loving in our conversations, and be willing to admit that reasonable people can disagree.

4. Remember that our hope is in Jesus and not in a political candidate or party.
The psalmist offers helpful wisdom, saying, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.… Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob” (Psalm 146:3, 5). Our hope is in Jesus, so it should not shake the foundation of our worlds if our candidate loses or if a particular candidate wins.

5. Remember your true citizenship.
Election season can be a time where patriotism runs amok. Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with being patriotic and loving our country. However, as followers of Jesus, we are not primarily citizens of the United States but rather citizens of the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul had to remind a patriotic group of Roman citizens of this same truth, writing, “But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Unchecked patriotism can shrink our capacity to love those outside our borders. It can also tempt us to forget that we are members of a global, transnational family—the body of Christ—and this is our primary identity. We must remember this as we vote.

Finally, as followers of Jesus, let’s stay committed to exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit this election season: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. These fruits are in short supply in our country–which means we have an enormous opportunity to be salt and light in the midst of a conversation that desperately needs these things.

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