On Election Eve 2016, my prayer for the United States is that we would learn from King David.
King David had just experienced his worst moment. He had been consumed by lust and used his position of authority to commit adultery with Bathsheba. He then tried to cover up his transgression by ordering her husband, the soldier Uriah, into battle and intentionally abandoning him on the battlefield to be killed by the enemy.
Sound familiar? In one faithful, but flawed, king we can find charges levied against our two presidential candidates in this election.
As a result of the affair, Bathsheba became pregnant and bore a son. After the boy was born, however, he became gravely ill. The outcome looked bleak. In response, David, the concerned father, jumped into action.
He threw himself on the ground and pleaded with God for the life of his son. He fasted. He ignored the elders who told him to get up and eat. For a full week David shut out the outside world and chose instead a place of wailing, lamentation, and supplication.
Despite all of David’s fervent intercessions, the boy died.
Understandably, the elders were afraid to break the news to David. Who could predict what drastic actions David would take once he learned of his son’s death? He had acted like a crazy man when the boy was alive. He was most certain to fly completely off the handle now that his son had actually died.
Instead, a surprising thing happened. When he learned of his son’s death:
David rose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes. He went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. His servants set food before him, and he ate (2 Samuel 12:20).
The elders were confused. How could David take the loss so well?
David told them:
When the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may still live.” But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? (2 Samuel 12:2-23).
David knew it was over. He had done all he could. He prayed, fasted, and wailed. It had not turned out how he wanted, but it was over and so he moved on.
My prayer for the United States is that we will find ways to move on together after the election.
Like David, each candidate and their supporters have done all they could. Millions of dollars have been spent on advertising and on campaigning. The candidates have debated and traveled across the country. Millions of volunteers have knocked on doors, made phone calls, and will make sure voters turn out on Election Day.
Ultimately, over a hundred million Americans will cast a vote in the presidential election and it will be over.
Moving on will be no easy task. This election has exposed deep suspicion, anger, and pain among the electorate that will continue to exist long after the votes are counted.
Moving on begins with a recognition that it means much more than an expectation that the supporters of the losing candidate will simply fall in line behind the supporters of the winning candidate.
It will require leaders committed to raising rhetoric and civic discourse out of the election gutter. It will take leaders among both the electoral winners and losers alike anointing the country and political process with humility and understanding. It will demand that leaders remove their clothes of partisanship (especially literal clothes which slander and demean) and change instead into the clothes of responsible citizenship.
Writing on Election Eve, I recognize that the race has tightened and there is a real possibility the candidate I support might lose. Aware of that possibility, let me be the first to practice what I am preaching by pledging my support to the next President-elect, regardless of whether that person is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
That doesn’t mean I would agree with the policies proposed by the President-elect, nor does that mean I won’t oppose them. It means that I pledge to move on by honoring Martin Luther’s explanation of the 8th commandment in which believers are taught to speak well of others and to understand their actions in the best possible light. For the sake of our country, that’s my pledge to the next President-elect.
There is still another surprise in King David’s story.
Shortly after his son’s death Bathsheba became pregnant again. The blessing of the Lord was upon their new son and he was given the name Solomon. This baby would grow up to become King Solomon known for his great wisdom.
No doubt, King Solomon could trace his own wisdom back to his father’s wise choice to pick himself up after his devastating loss and move forward.
The future of our county depends on all of us embracing this wisdom.
In an age where it is easy to surround ourselves with news and information that affirms our opinions, rather than informs and challenges our beliefs, this will not be easy.
It will require leadership.
It will require us to learn from King David.
It is my prayer for our country on this Election Eve.