I’m proud to be an American. I know that’s cliché, but it’s also true. I love my country, and I am truly thankful to God for my home nation.
However, this past election year has honestly embarrassed me. As an American living overseas in an international community, it’s been embarrassing that the predominant image that the rest of the world has been given of my country – on the news and in social media – is that of an entitled, discontent, squabbling, and dysfunctional political system with violent eruptions from factions on both sides of the ideological divide. It saddens me. My international colleagues look at me and they know that’s where I come from. And it’s embarrassing to be associated with that image.
On the other hand, we have all traveled from around the world to serve together in the nation of Benin – a beautiful country in West Africa with a stable government and lovely, warm, hospitable people! But we know that Benin is also the birthplace of Voodoo in the south of the country… that it has a growing presence of radical Islam in the north… that many Christians throughout Benin are known to openly blend their Christian faith with Voodoo, animism, or other traditional religious practices that are contrary to Biblical Christianity.
I recently read a Biblical Scripture from the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament that seemed timely for these days. It said,
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey My laws and be careful to follow My decrees. I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep My decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Keep all My decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations, because they do things that are abhorrent (to Me).” –Leviticus 18:1-4; 20:7-8,22-23
For my fellow followers of Jesus who are serving in various capacities around the world: Don’t live like the people do where you come from. Don’t live like the people do where you are going. You live differently. You live the way God has instructed you to live in His Word.
As God told His people in Leviticus 20:23, “You must not live according to the customs of the nations” – neither the nation where you lived, nor of the nation where God has sent you – “because they [both] do things that are abhorrent (to Me)”.
Among my American friends, I don’t know very many people who are hopeful about the outcome of today’s election. As divided as Americans are right now, it seems that the one thing uniting us is that many people are casting their votes today based on who they do NOT want to win. And that is a dismal outlook for a nation’s election day.
But my hope is not in the next American president.
Dysfunctional human political systems drive my heart heavenward. Broken human constructs drive my hands and eyes to the Word of God. And His Word for me, on this momentous day, is this: “Your standard for living is not the practices of your home nation. Nor is your standard for living the practices of the nation I have sent you to. I have given you a heavenly standard by the example and practices of Jesus. You live differently. You live the way that I, the Lord, have instructed you to live in My Word. You live the way that Jesus has shown you how to live in My Word.”
And in that Divine standard for living, I have great hope.