I know this may ruffle a few feathers, but I have a few quick thoughts to offer about a common expression I hear from many of my Christian friends (including pastors of some very large churches) every time there is a presidential election. The expression is this: “Whoever wins, God is still on the throne.”
1. The fact that "God is on the throne" is only part of the message of Christianity. It begs a response on our part; yet, the expression as we use it comes across as being tinged with indifference (at best) and triumphalism (even worse). It may provide a sense of peace and comfort for the Christian, but it feels rather smug and superior to anyone else. In either case, it grants us the luxury of inaction and can easily blind us to the need to dedicate ourselves to sacrificial acts of compassion, mercy, and justice.
2. Since the core Christian creed is the belief that “Jesus is Lord,” the Christian’s sense of God’s sovereignty needs to be filtered through the life of Jesus. In other words, the Christian understands “God” through Jesus of Nazareth. This has implications for how we understand God’s lordship, and the ancient Christian hymn in Philippians 2 spells this out for us.
The latter part of the hymn that speaks of his exaltation is predicated on the first half of the hymn that describes his humiliation. Thus, the weight of his glory rests on his humility, his becoming “nothing” (emptying himself), “taking the very nature of a servant”, being “human” (one of us), and giving up his life on the cross. In other words, Jesus shows us that it is in the very nature of God to empty God’s own self for the sake of being with us in our lowly state. The servanthood of Jesus is not presented to us in the hymn as a contrast to God’s lordship; it is presented as the way God rules, the very trajectory of God’s volition. It is in keeping with God’s nature to take the lowest place.
God’s sovereignty is expressed to us in Jesus as one who refused to “sit on a throne,” who expended all his power for the sake of love...to come close to the suffering ones, the forgotten ones, the castaways, and the powerless. God in Christ became their hope by coming close to them and identifying with them.
Through Jesus, humanity saw that God’s throne was closer than we thought. He took his place at our feet, the place of the lowest servant…the Servant of servants. King Jesus washed our feet and, having done so, he commissioned his followers to do likewise for others.
The throne of God, thus, is located in those who “do likewise,” who follow the example of their Lord. If we want to say “whoever wins, God is still on the throne” we need to understand this and live according to it. That is why I suggest that, if it boiled down to the choice between saying it or not, it would probably be better if we didn’t say it at all but just lived it out by humble acts of service, pouring ourselves out in love for others.
Election-season Christian lingo
reflections by troy cady