The Elect and the Elections
The Elect and Elections
The New Testament words for the ‘elect’ refer primarily to those who have been chosen or called for some special favor or privilege. The elect are those called to be saints and holy as the people of God “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (Phil. 2:15-16)
We fail for the most part to attain to this high calling. With the marks of sin upon us (fear of death) we struggle to avoid death at every turn. We are not like the few who in every generation “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” and “love not their lives even unto death.” (Rev. 14:4; 12:11)
Into this existential predicament we even dare to drag God. Take politics as a prime example. Many question in definitive disbelief: How can you be a republican/democrat/libertarian/fill in the blank and call yourself a Christian? As if Christ would identify with one over against the others.
Yet to each person’s political affiliation, Scripture speaks. To Peter’s rejection (on political grounds no less) of Jesus’ announcement of his crucifixion (for Peter was looking for an earthly king), the Lord issues him his stern rebuke: “Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Matthew 16:23) If the shoe fits, wear it.
Contrary to our high calling as Christians, we walk in Peter’s footsteps because, like him, we Christians, the elect, proclaim that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16) who came into the world to save us from our sins (Mt. 1:21), yet we dysfunctionally manipulate Him for our own ends. God is what each of us needs him to be. Our mortality moves us to control life’s situations.
One aspect of exerting some degree of control is voting in elections. Each of us votes for what makes for our security, be it ecological, economical, ecclesiastical, and etcetera. Out of the fear of death, each of us hopes that peace can be procured and Jesus will not have to return a second time. Not so, says Saint Paul: “For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them …” (1 Thess. 5:3).
Issues near and dear to us take precedence over a candidate’s character and virtue, even when the candidate hates God, Christians, and the Church, because we want to believe that we will always shielded by the division between church and state. Unfortunately, the powerful have historically had no respect for such boundaries and cannot be reasonably expected to honor this civil foundation laid by America’s founding fathers. Only those fearful of the specter of this outcome will live in denial of it rather than face the truth.
And if the impact on the Church isn’t enough, the squeezing of Christianity out of the emerging new world order is forcing Christians to live up to our billing as the elect. This causes tension and friction even among family members. Orthodox Christians have read about and named their children for saints martyred by their own parents for similar reasons. This should come as no surprise, for persecution is not new, but has arisen at different times throughout the centuries and will arise again at the end of the age, as Jesus foretold: “And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mk. 13:12-13)
Despite all this discombobulation, the elect are still expected to hold fast to the word of life. That word teaches us that only Christ can solve the problem. Man is perennially concerned about himself, not his fellow man, lost in his legacies. Man is legend in his own mind, he is arrogance, hubris, megalomania.
Christ is the exact opposite of all of this. A divine-human person, the God-man Jesus was born into the world to die (his swaddling bands in the manger are burial cloths). He alone is capable of destroying death and fostering the lasting peace we all seek because he alone is truly in control, not us, “for our fight is not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, powers, and world rulers of this darkness, with the spiritual hosts of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12)
So let us avert every opportunity to be willing accomplices in man’s self-glorification (who cares nothing for the common man), but as the elect of God let us shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life which never glorifies man but only God, as Orthodoxy’s Christmas greeting says so simply yet so powerfully:
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna; Proterios, Archbishop of Alexandria; Gorgonia the Righteous, sister of Gregory the Theologian; Damian the New Martyr of Mount Athos; Boswell, Abbot of Melrose Abbey