Hillary, Bernie, Donald, Ted, Marco, Jeb. We hear their names almost every hour of every day in the news; so much so that we feel like we know them by now. Americans once again are spending an enormous amout of time, money and energy thinking about who will be the next President of the United States of America.

Many of us spend time at political events, send money to campaigns, and spend our reputations in person or online for one candidate or the other, passionately pleading for others to follow suit.

On March 1, Democrats and Republicans each will have their opportunity to cast a ballot for the parties’ respective nominees, to be followed by a vote next November.

/// Before you vote

Some have argued that this presidential election cycle has been a circus atmosphere, with celebrity antics and attacks unlike other years. To one extent or another, politics is always going to have its fireworks. That is why it is so important that Christians do their homework on the issues. We care not only that the candidate has the right views—for life-protecting laws for example—but that he or she has the right priorities.

As you do your homework, truly pray that the Lord’s will would be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Our nation’s founders gave us a democratic republic, if we can keep it, in which we have a say so. It is also one that has often given us the leaders we asked for or deserve. Whether it’s the President, Congress, voting on retaining Oklahoma Supreme Court judges or the Legislature, take time to research and pray.

For those holding elected office in the Legislature, for example, you can research voting records online at www.oksenate.gov and www.okhouse.gov. For aspiring candidates, contact them directly or their campaign and ask your questions and go to key events near your community. The Oklahoma State Election Board has an official website, too, with useful voting tools and information at www.ok.gov. This all is easier said than done, but by participating in the process we will all be better off.

///After you vote

Picture it now. It’s March 2, and we know how Oklahoma and many other states have voted. Within a few weeks and months, each party will have its nominee and have its convention plans in place.

Maybe your person won, maybe they lost. But that person you may have derided (secretly or openly) on Facebook for liking another candidate, he’s still there. That Sunday School class member with whom you may have disagreed, he’s still here.

In other words, life and people immediately surrounding you don’t change because voting day came and went. That is why it is so important to keep every election at every level issues focused. We can disagree with one another, and disagree strongly, but let it be over the issues or matters or character, not simply personality based.

Christians, even those belonging to the same political party, often find themselves at extreme odds with one another come election season. If you need to mend some fences after the 2016 election, don’t wait. Reconcile with your brother or sister in Christ.

Lastly, remember that your neighbor who is rooting, for example, for that socially liberal, pro-abortion candidate you dislike may be the very person God has put in your path to share the light of Christ with. Before we can be “right on the issues,” we need to be right with God. In 2016 and beyond, let’s advance the Gospel first, before any political party.