“Daddy! That person is bad and if they become president, it will be terrible!”
This political commentary was delivered to me while driving my kids to school one morning. In the car alongside her older brother and two younger sisters, my eldest daughter was clearly distraught. From her 7-year-old’s point of view, this election was shaping up to be an apocalyptic event and one that was causing her all the anxiety and angst of a cable news anchor covering the candidate of the party they despise.
As the father of four young children, I realize that shepherding young hearts doesn’t happen in a vacuum. During election years, the messages of media: the soundbites, the op-eds, the interviews, and everyone’s reactions on social media can flood our homes and affect our families. Even the youngest of school-aged children (like my preschoolers) can hear and repeat the views that those around them may have, making school cafeterias, playgrounds, and hallways areas of lively debate and political discourse.
The fact of the matter is we should not think our children are unaware of politics. While they may not understand foreign policy or economic reform, our children and those we care about are having their worldviews continually shaped and challenged. It should not surprise us that often times during an election season this can lead to fear and confusion in kids; after all is this not what we see with other adults?
As we consider how to engage young hearts regarding the election, we must start with Scripture. In Romans 13 we read the following:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1-2, ESV).
Notice not only what Paul is saying, but how he says it. First, we must speak to our kids in a way that does away with fear. Kids can and should trust that God is in control no matter who is in the White House because as Romans 13:1 states: … there is no authority except from God. If that were not clear enough, Paul goes on in Romans 13:2 to say that these are people whom God has appointed.
As we speak about the candidates, their respective parties, and the potential repercussions of their elections, we should not do so in fear. To do so would not ascribe God His rightful place or authority in terms of history or creation. Should we read up and care about the issues surrounding pinnacle of authority in our country? Absolutely. Should we consider these outside the sovereignty of our good God? Absolutely not! It would only stand to reason that no matter the candidate we back, whatever the issue(s) we raise, we still need to know our God is in control and the results of election night are not unknown to Him.
This assurance must be the basis of our conversation with our kids. God appoints authorities, kings, emperors, and even presidents. He is above all of them, and He cares for us! Fear need not enter the conversation, rather, we should speak to our kids with honesty and faith, knowing that whatever the outcome of any election, God has not been surprised, vetoed, or demoted in any way.
When fear does creep in, and it will, we can turn to Paul’s letter to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 2 we read:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV).
When we talk about those who govern us, our immediate action and posture should be one of prayer. Again, regardless of party affiliation, we are commanded to pray for those who rule us. In the time of Paul and Timothy, that rule was done through a king with absolute power. In our democratic society, we have some control and voice, more than in the days of Paul, but we have the same command extended to us: to pray for those who have been put in places of authority.
Have you ever prayed with your kids for the government? I would ask that you try it. Do it not from a standpoint of fear, but from a place of faith, putting your faith in the fact that Jesus is Lord and King over every king, president, power, and principality, earthly or otherwise. This is a wonderful truth and an action each of us can take with our kids.
Finally, we must speak with our kids about their true identities. Much of Paul’s writings focus on the identity of the Christian. Whether it is our adoption into God’s family (Ephesians 1) or as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven (2 Corinthians 5), our citizenship isn’t solely that of our country, but also of our eternal home. Is it right to have a nationality and customs, yes! Is that the total of a person and their identity, no.
Through the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection, we have been born again into an eternal family, and we are a part of a royal line. This is the truth of the gospel and the basis of the identity of every believer; young or old, big or small.
We should care about the issues, we should have opinions shaped by the gospel. When we disagree, we should not do so with venom or fear or anger, but out of a biblical conviction. More than that though, I want to challenge you to talk to your kids about the election, about the issues. Hear what their thoughts are; you might be surprised at what they say. No matter what, red or blue, donkey or elephant, no matter whom we vote into office, we still serve a King and God who is in full control.