Don Follis | We vote, but Jesus alone ushers in his kingdom

Don Follis | We vote, but Jesus alone ushers in his kingdom

My work is a good fit for me, as I spend my days interacting with pastors from a wide array of backgrounds. As I counsel, give spiritual direction, ask questions and listen to stories — some heartwarming, others heartbreaking — I know that church-based vocations are not for the faint of heart.

I meet pastors politically on the right, and I meet pastors politically to the left. Some voted for President Trump and others headed to Washington to protest, joining the Women's March the day after Trump was inaugurated. In this #MeToo era, a few pastors tell me women are not always truthful about reporting sexual harassment. But I have heard way more credible stories from women, some of them pastors, finally emboldened to tell their stories of sexual abuse and harassment, often from decades past.

Some days, I marvel at how the church even survives, given the brokenness of those who lead it. I smiled recently when a friend said, "How do you meet with so many different kinds of church folks. I would go crazy."

A few days back, a pastor who stands solidly behind President Trump asked me where I stood with Trump. "When I give an account to God on Judgment Day," I said, "I don't think the first question will be 'What did you do with Donald Trump?'"

"Is that the basis of our fellowship? Is that the heart of our love for each other?" I even quoted Scripture to him, "Jesus said to his followers, 'By this all people will know if you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.'" (John 13:35).

After we parted, I felt frustrated and sad at so much discord among people, even people of faith. I thought back to Jesus' prayer prior to his own crucifixion. "I have given them the glory which you gave me, that they may be one even as we are one: I in them and you in me, that they may be perfect in unity, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me." (John 17:22-23).

That prayer doesn't seem to have helped us get along or avoid church splits. And yet, writer Francis Chan says in his book "Letters to the Church," "Jesus said the purpose of our unity was so the world may know that you sent me and loved them." Unity is that important. It's not just for our good, but for the good of the world.

Still, pastors have told me they cannot understand how a faithful believer could vote for Hillary, and pastors have told me they cannot fathom how a true believer could have voted for Trump. The Holy Scriptures that we call our sole authority for faith and practice never makes our political views the foundation of our unity.

When I read the Gospels, I find Jesus caring for the lost, the poor and the broken, but disappointing his followers who discover that he did not come to declare victory over the oppressive Roman government. He even said the Romans would destroy Jerusalem, predicting the day would come within a generation. When he entered Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus wept, lamenting that so many people did not understand he had not come as an earthly king.

In fact, so many of Jesus' hard words were directed at how the Jews pursued their faith. He called their leaders snakes and white-washed tombs. He enjoyed the company of vulnerable children, even issuing a dire warning of the eternal fate for anyone who abused an innocent child. He ate dinner with despised Jewish tax collectors and even told people to pay taxes to Rome. In front of a dinner party of religious and business leaders, he let a known distressed woman crumpled before him cry tears on his feet and then wipe his feet with her hair.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus was clear that his kingdom is not of this world, saying that if it were, "my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place."

With the November election looming, I am reflecting on words of the prophet Micah who asks, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God."

While I will vote my conscience, I know that even among church folk divisions are wide. I will vote with the golden rule in mind, conscious of the constant need for justice among the poor and oppressed. I will vote believing the church should lean into the world, critiquing culture and addressing politics while realizing that political or religious activity cannot and will not establish God's kingdom.

May God have mercy as we live and vote and pray, "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Don Follis has pastored in Champaign-Urbana for 35 years. He directs retreats and coaches leaders via Contact him at, and you can follow him on Twitter at@donfollis.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):People, Religion