With the new year, our thoughts, whether we want to or not, move toward the upcoming election for the Presidency of the United States of America, the single most powerful temporal office in the world. The world watches with unbridled curiosity mixed with admiration and fearfulness as the American people head to the poles.
We forget what a new process this really is. In former ages, it was thought that God chooses the sovereign and, as such, to disobey the King or Queen was seen not only as a political act but also a sin.
Once the principle took shape that the governor gets his or her mandate from the people, then the people must have a way of selecting whom they want to lead them. Vox Populi Vox Dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God). This makes it very important that the choice of the people be fairly and honestly done. Once the person is elected by the people, he or she must be given the opportunity to govern. And if they do not do it well, then the people should change their choice next time they make an election.
God also elects, but not in the same way. He does not elect officials or politicians, but He has elected a people: the people of Israel to accomplish His Will and to teach the world how to live honestly and lovingly in the world.
Because God chooses a people does not mean that His favor rests only on that group of individuals and groups. The election by God of the people of Israel or a prophet is never for the benefit of the Chosen. As Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ says to God: “Once in a while can’t you choose someone else?” It is a burden and a responsibility to be elected by God since the good of many others depends on the faithful accomplishment of the mission.
The Prophets were also elected or chosen by God to speak truth to power and to make sure that God’s eternal will is done. They also suffered for their efforts, being misunderstood or worse.
Even today, God often elects an individual to bring out the truth in some area of life. Like Jonah trying to escape God’s election, many of us prefer to run the other way when we get a glimpse that God seeks us for a very personal and important mission.
One feels the call to election deep in the interior of one’s being. Often we prefer to look the other way.
I remember as a teenager going to a preparatory seminary high school being elected by God to do something very difficult. There were two factions at war in the neighborhood and many people were not talking to other people who were on the opposing side. Someone I respected a great deal asked me how I could let this happen. I was in the seminary studying to be a priest. It was up to me to talk with the leader of the other group to bring peace to the block. I felt in the person’s words a deep truth. I knew that I was being asked by God, through this person’s words, to risk being misunderstood or even ostracized by speaking to the other side. So with my heart in my throat I went to that person and embraced him. I thought that he would either die or slug me. But neither happened. Peace came to the block, but I was exhausted and just wanted to go home!
When God calls us and elects us to a particular mission, He gives us the strength to accomplish His Will. But that still requires a great expenditure of effort and work on our part. But what is most important is the direction for which we receive our election. In politics, the election is made from below, that is, from the people; but when there is an election by God, it comes from above. This presupposes faith and belief in God.
Election in politics is a responsibility, but God’s election is a privilege that leads us to take responsible action because it is the Will of God, and God alone.