08 Oct Things to Avoid in Religion and Politics – Stephen Mizell
I have heard it said that money and politics are the two hardest topics to discuss in the church and among believers. When it comes to politics, our nation may be as divided as ever. There is a growing divide between party affiliation and what appears to be less willingness to do what is best for our country if it requires one side to cooperate with the other. Dissatisfaction among citizens is high, even though the reasons can be varied depending on which party you belong to.
There is no time when this is more evident than during election cycles, especially presidential elections. Facebook says that more people are “unfriended” on Facebook during presidential elections than at any other time. Even among friends and acquaintances, our political opinions seem to overwhelm our relationships.
Christians are not exempt from divisiveness over politics. The divisions are not just between Christians and non-Christians, we are often vehemently divided among ourselves. Politics is certainly not the only issue to create division in the church. Churches have a history of dividing over everything from carpet color to worship style, not to mention centuries old theological debates.
One of the things that has always been a concern where church and politics are concerned is how much value we place in our political opinions and how little value we place on the relationships we have with other believers. Why would the support of a particular candidate remotely have the ability to separate believers?
The Bible has a lot to say about our need for government, our responsibility as Christian citizens to government and what characteristics we should value in our leaders. We have spent several weeks at Open Door discussing these very issues in hopes that people will take seriously their responsibility as a citizen. We have also attempted to offer reminders that people can take the same Bible and same expectations of leaders and come to completely different choices. The church can read the same Bible and not be able to settle certain theological differences for thousands of years. It should seem obvious to us that we could choose different political candidates using the same criteria.
Though I believe it is important for Christians to be a part of the process, there are also some things that I think are important for us to avoid. Avoiding these things will improve our interaction with others and very well may assist in the process of political dialogue sorely missing from our country.
Assuming everyone sees things like you do
Eyewitnesses to events often see things very differently. Sometimes it is because of their perspective, other times it comes from focusing on different aspects of what is happening. For example, three people could witness an automobile accident and all three walk away with different opinions of what just happened. None of them may be wrong, they all just have different opinions based on their perspective, point of view and their object of focus. One person may have been focusing on one car while another focused on a second car while the third person may have only been concerned about the people in one car. It often has very little to do with right or wrong and much more to do with how someone is looking at something. The same is true of politics, even from a Biblical worldview, people can see the same candidates and issues and have completely differing opinions. Everyone will not see things like you do, and they don’t have to. Don’t make your opinion the baseline for Christians in politics.
Making our politics more important than people
This is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, of all. We are instructed in the Bible to do our best to live at peace with all men. There is no qualifier for politics. People should be more important than our politics. Jesus said the world would judge disciples of Christ based on how they loved one another. When we are constantly divided, especially over things like politics, to the point that we can no longer worship together or have relationships with one another, we are sending a terrible message to unbelievers. Love God and love people. Those are the simple instructions we have been given to live by. We must be careful not to allow our political views to override that principle.
Pretending you have more spiritual insight than others
One of my personal pet peeves is people who constantly pull the “God card”, or a more modern term would be “Jesus juke”. This will happen when one person is attempting to convince another person their point of view is correct and they use a phrase like “well I have prayed about it and feel like this is right” or “God spoke to me and said _______”. I do believe we get direction from God through prayer and I do believe God speaks to us and guides us every day. I believe we should live lives led by the Holy Spirit. But when we insert these phrases into debates, we are often attempting to claim spiritual superiority over the person with whom we are disagreeing. This can be dangerous and unhealthy. To assume the other person has not prayed about their choice or that God will not speak to them is arrogance and is not becoming to us as believers.
Not taking time to know why you believe what you believe
One of the greatest disservices we do to ourselves is not taking the time to know why we have made the choices we are making. Why do we believe a specific candidate is best? Why should our worldview look like this? What does the Bible say about leaders and specific issues? If the Bible guides our worldview, our understanding of it should guide our choices, not a political party. We dangerously tie ourselves to political platforms when our salvation does not come from those things. Take time to understand the issues of the day and be able to make an informed choice. Our country, and the church, benefits when we take this approach.
As we close in on election day here in the United States, let us take some things to heart that will distinctly improve our witness to those around us. Government is necessary. Losing our influence is not necessary. Choose people over politics. You will not regret it.