Mistakes Christians Make in Political Disagreements
It's happened again. The internet is set ablaze. Social media is overrun with status updates, memes, and sarcasm. We shouldn’t be surprised when the world acts like the world, but when God’s people throw internet tantrums and treat each other as enemies, we should be shocked. This won't be the last time Christians disagree over politics, but we do not have to continue to respond in a way that brings shame to the body of Christ.
We can’t control how people will respond to us, but we can maintain our Christian composure regardless of how heated things get (see Rom 12:18). Let’s notice four things that take place in politically charged exchanges that we can try to avoid during our next political disagreement.
1. Ignoring or Abusing Bible Passages
It is often the case during these disagreements that everyone runs to their favorite passages to defend their stance. Those who feel the other side is tight-fisted and heartless will offer a slew of passages highlighting benevolence and God’s concern for the less fortunate through every covenant (Matt 25:31-46 is a favorite).
Those on the other side will often quote passages highlighting individual responsibility and the need for everyone to bear their own burden (see 2 Thess 3:10). The problem with both approaches is that they try to make the Bible be in conflict with itself.
We need to harmonize our views with scripture and look at all that the Bible says on the subject at hand before reaching a conclusion. Instead of running to passages that support our predetermined view, we should sit down and study to see if we are neglecting other relevant verses on the subject. The Pharisees ignored scripture to uphold their selfish motives and Jesus condemned them for this (Mark 7:9-13). We need to examine ourselves to make sure we aren't guilty of the same thing.
Sometimes it's necessary to speak in general terms. Yet, to lump large groups of people together while in heated discussions is dangerous. Generalizations don't help people see our point of view. Instead, it normally creates more barriers. “All Democrats are thinking along these lines” or “all Republicans always do this” isn't a wise way to proceed in these discussions. Remember that there are Christians trying to please God on both sides of almost every opinion.
In matters of judgment, we should always be willing to give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt. We should strive to avoid becoming a stumbling block and remember that we are not the judge, but God is (Rom 14:12-13). We should be careful not to undermine the personal convictions of those for whom Jesus died (Rom 14:15). Treat people on an individual basis and try not to assume.
3. Judging Motives
God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7), but we can't see that far. We only know individuals by the fruit they display in their lives. We can call sinful things sinful and we can call right things right. In fact, the Bible teaches we ought to do these things (Eph 5:11-12).
However, too many times we are hasty in judging motives, and we often assume the worst. Almost every time you see or participate in a sixty-comment-long political discussion on social media, motive judging is involved. Christians shouldn’t be guilty of this.
We know so little about people’s backgrounds, family affiliations, and why they reason the way that they do. Let’s look unbiasedly at the facts and allow others to do the same. Ultimately, we can only see people’s actions. We go too far when we think we can know people only believe something because they don’t love others or because they are selfish and greedy.
4. Failing to Love and Listen
In the time of instant news, we are far quicker to share a link to a story or statistic that supports our belief than we are to wait and see how things will develop. The Bible teaches that wise people are not quick to open their mouths before hearing the other side (Prov 18:13). Several famous people are credited with saying, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Unfortunately, many are in the practice of removing all doubt.
Before our hands get busy typing or we begin to mentally dial up a response, we should listen and seek to understand the other side, and not just to respond (see Jas 1:19-20). Christians should be known for their love (John 13:34-35). Regardless of where you side on the best policy solution to police and civilian relations or refugee crises, you still have the duty to love everyone.
We are not told that we are to love people to the degree that they agree with us, and just because we love someone does not mean that we will never disagree with them. Love means that when we disagree we do not resort to sarcasm or slick-talking to make others feel ignorant or insignificant (1 Cor 13:4-6). Christians, we know how we need to behave. We simply need to lay our pride aside and love one another (1 Thess 4:9).
This article will not solve all the nation’s problems or even all the church’s problems. This post is not suggesting that we should not be concerned with what is going on, or that we should not speak out. Christians cannot bury their heads in the sand while the world is searching for answers and wanting to know what God’s people think. Hold firm to your convictions, but hold the New Testament and its principles tighter. Remember that we are not dealing with mere concepts and abstract beliefs, but with people made in the image of God.
Lastly, remember that the world is watching. Internal civil war has never been a good advertisement for the kingdom of God. Unity draws people to Jesus (John 17:20-21); division doesn’t. Even when we disagree we do not have to become ungodly. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20-21) and such should be our main concern.