This election cycle is unlike any I can remember in my short life. The vitriol and unwillingness to compromise seems worse than ever. Both the candidates and their supporters are seemingly always at each other’s throats via speeches, debates, or social media. It is in a time like this when a Christian’s light ought to shine brightest. Followers of Christ shouldn’t blend into the crowd of those spewing hatred in the name of politics. When someone engages us in a political discussion, we shouldn’t sound like the world around us. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep our lights shining during this election.
Speak with grace
This one is important. Notice Paul’s command: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). We are to always have gracious speech. Yes, even during political discussion.
Likewise, Christians are to “speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). If you cannot discuss politics without speaking evil of one of the candidates, being gentle, avoiding a quarrel, or showing courtesy to all; then maybe you ought to abstain from political discussion. After all, as a Christian, it should be more important to us to be a Christ-like influence than to win a political discussion. This leads us to the next tip.
Keep your priorities straight
How precious is this temporal, worldly kingdom to us? In a non-election year, we might say “not very.” But our actions betray us every four years. When are we as the church going to start taking seriously what God says about our true citizenship? Indeed, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The book of Hebrews has great reminders that this world is not our home (Hebrews 11:13-16; 13:14), but do we believe them?
Our actions speak louder than our words. If this world is not our home, why do we bitterly fight tooth and nail to elect the leader who best suits our admittedly biased frame of reference? Why are we so often willing to sling mud with the rest of the world when it’s an election year? If Christ’s kingdom truly takes priority over America in our hearts, why are we often willing to jeopardize our evangelistic influence to convert someone to our political ideology? Let’s strive to have our priorities straight: to value God over Caesar, to be more concerned with eternity than earth, and to radically love our neighbor whether they’re a Republican or Democrat.
Remember the goal
Along with keeping our priorities in check, to keep our salt seasoned and our light shining, we must remember the goal. Paul encouraged Timothy, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Anyone who bears the name “Christian” is a soldier of Christ. When we are enlisted in that celestial regimen, our entire purpose changes. Our goal is no longer to please ourselves, a local politician, or anyone else. Our goal is to please God alone. To get down in the political mud and sling it on others is a civilian pursuit. Such does not concern us as soldiers of Christ. Our goal is ultimately to please God, and we shouldn’t be engaged in political activity in such a way that brings reproach to His name.
Overall, we as Christians have a fantastic opportunity to let our light shine in the darkness of this election cycle. If only we would remember to speak with grace, keep our priorities straight, and remember our goal. Certainly, Christians are entitled to an opinion and can express that opinion. But, if in expressing that opinion we un-season our salt, blow out our light, or ruin our influence; we need to check our priorities. When engaging in political discussion, keep in mind the inspired words of Paul: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24-25 NIV).