Election season: Playing Red Light/Green Light with the Gospel

We hear Christians shout it – our post it, or mutter it: ‘We’re at WAR, man! Everyone to the barricade! Utterly destroy [this year’s enemy]! Use sarcasm, invective, innuendo, false rumors, expletives, fake news, whatever it takes to wipe them out!’

“In the name of God, I must annihilate thee! But don’t worry, they tell me that it’s a loving action!!”

Their favorite passage is from Matthew 21, where Jesus made a whip a drove out the enemies of God. And when they move along to Matthew 22, I suspect they use this Bible version:

A man approached Jesus after church and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment of all?” And Jesus said to him:

“YOU shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And a second is like it: YOU shall love your neighbor as YOURself.”‘

And the man went away with a big “Haruuumph.” For, verily, it was an election year, and Jesus just didn’t understand reality. And besides, verily, the NEIGHBOR started it!  So love MY neighbor really shouldn’t be the point! (Matthew 22 ESV, redacted just a tad)

And for those who award themselves a “Get Out of Agape Free” card during Election Season?

Let’s make some calculations, assuming the US system of elections on every even year; with national elections starting to heat up in the summer of the year previous; and state elections at the beginning of the election year.

This would mean – let’s see – that we can cut out Jan-June of 2015; that over the 66 months between summer 2015 and the end of 2020, Jesus’ commandment would have been applicable (green light!) for 21 months, but naïve or suspended (red light!) for 45 months. Let’s look at the results:

2017, by this algorithm, should have been a hot year for agape. It was not, at least, not that I recall.

Let’s put that into a pie chart! It reveals that, in theory, Jesus’ second-greatest-command would be applicable just short of 32% of the days of our lives; and that we get a free pass 68% of the time.


Although to be honest, you and I have both met Christians who have been stuck at the red light for years. And it explains why people keep asking me, Why does my church seem to be a place of anger? Or fear: People act like the church is in a fight for its very existence!!”

Being a Christian is hard work. Scratch that; it’s impossible work. If we live out any kind of agape, it’s completely the work of the Spirit. And as with Jesus’ love commandment, the fruit of the Spirit is for every day of every year, it’s always a green light for love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

SEE ALSO on this blog:

A Prayer for Our Nation

Why I Left Party Loyalty Behind, and Never Looked Back

“Election season: Playing Red Light/Green Light with the Gospel,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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