It has happened again. With a new political policy signed concerning refugee assistance, 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, then we should be surprised. This will not be the last time that Christians disagree over politics, but we do not have to continue to respond in a way that brings shame on the body of Christ. We can’t control how people will respond to us, but we can determine to maintain Christian composure regardless of how heated things get (see Rom 12:18). Let’s notice four things that always take place during these times that we can try to avoid during the next political disagreement.
Ignoring or Abusing Bible Passages
It never fails that during these disagreements, 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 pit Bible passages against each other.
We need to harmonize our views with scripture and view all that the Bible says on the subject at hand before reaching a conclusion. Instead of running to passages that support our predetermined view, it would be wise to sit down and think if we are neglecting other relevant verses on the subject. The Pharisees ignored scripture to uphold their selfish motives and Jesus condemned this (Mark 7:9-13). We need to examine ourselves to see if we are not guilty of this same thing.
Sometimes we must speak in general terms and this is not always a bad thing. Yet, to lump large groups of people together while in heated discussions is dangerous. Generalizations do not help to get people to see where we are coming from. Instead, it normally creates more barriers. “All Democrats are thinking along these lines” or “all Republicans always do this” is not a wise way to proceed in these discussions. Remember that there are Christians trying to please God on both sides of every issue.
In matters of judgment, we should always be willing to give brethren the benefit of the doubt. We should strive not to be a stumbling block and remember that God is the judge, not us (Rom 14:12-13). We should be careful not to undermine the convictions of those for whom Jesus died (Rom 14:15). Treat people on an individual basis and try not to assume.
God looks at the heart, but man cannot see that far (1 Sam 16:7). We know individuals by the fruit that they display in their lives. We can call sinful things sinful, we can call right things right, and say when things are wrong—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. Every time you see or participate in a sixty-comment long discussion on Facebook there will be tons of motive judging, Christians shouldn’t be guilty of this.
We know so little of people’s background, 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 see people’s actions, but we go too far when we say that we know they are only saying something because they don’t love people or they are selfish and greedy.
Failing to Love and Listen
In this day of instant news, we are far more quick 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 and before we begin to mentally dial up a response, we should listen to actually understand the other side, and not just to respond (see Jas 1:19-20). Christians are to be known for their love (John 13:34-35). Regardless of where you side on the issues of police and civilian relations or refugee laws, 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 them. Love means that when we disagree we do not result to sarcasm or slick talking to make others feel ignorant (1 Cor 13:4-6). Christians, we know how we need to behave, we simply lead to lay our pride and patriotism 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. If one Christian reads this and resolves to handle conflict and disagreement differently we are moving in the right direction. This post does not suggest 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. One more thing: the world is watching. Civil war has never been a good advertisement for people becoming members of the kingdom. 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.