Opinion by Jim Denney
One of the great tragedies of the church today is the way Christians divide from each other and attack each other over politics. I’m not saying our political views are unimportant. As Christians, we are to engage with the world around us, and our political views ought to reflect our Christian convictions.
But in recent times, I’ve seen many Christians separate from each other, attack each other, and mistreat each other over a difference in political viewpoints or party affiliation. This behavior is condemned in God’s Word.
I’ve seen Democratic Christians condemn and attack Republican Christians, accusing them of having no compassion for the poor and oppressed, accusing them of being selfish or racist or greedy or “evil.” And I’ve seen Republican Christians condemn and attack Democratic Christians as unbelievers, closet secularists, and apostates. By labeling and stereotyping people we disagree with, we dehumanize them, de-Christianize them, and convince ourselves it’s okay to hate them.
I believe that the Christians who disagree with me politically are not really all that different from me. If they are followers of Christ just as I am, then we have much more in common than we have in opposition to each other.
You may have voted for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or some other candidate. No matter who you voted for, I trust your heart. I believe you want a more secure and peaceful world. You want to end poverty and oppression and injustice in America and around the world. You want a strong economy, full employment, and a compassionate society. You want your children and grandchildren to have a secure future, a good education, safe neighborhoods, and protection from being bullied or abused. You want to end racism and hate, just as I do.
So if we agree on so much, why I we divided? Answer: Because we disagree on how to achieve those goals.
Democrats believe in accomplishing these goals through a strong central government, Keynesian economic controls, large-scale government initiatives (like Obamacare and a strong social welfare “safety net”), and the redistribution of resources to produce fair outcomes. Republicans believe in accomplishing these goals through free-market forces, lower taxes, less regulation, respect for property rights, and the rule of law. With few exceptions, your average grassroots Democrat and your average grassroots Republican pretty much agree on overall goals, but they disagree on how to get there.
If you and I have a political disagreement, that’s fine. Let’s talk about it. Maybe we can find some common ground and build on that. When it comes to our friendship, it’s not a deal-breaker that your vote canceled out mine. What matters to me is this: Is Jesus Christ the Lord of your life? If you can say, in all sincerity, that He is, then you and I are brothers and sisters in the Lord. As long as you don’t shout at me, defame me, or vilify me because of my political views, I consider you my friend.
Peter said, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8). Paul told the Colossians, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). And he told the Corinthians, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
And the Lord Himself prayed in His high priestly prayer, the night before He went to the cross, “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). As someone once said, our oneness is our witness.
What does it mean to have unity of mind? Does it mean we should all think exactly alike, vote exactly alike, and become politically homogenized? No. That would be impossible. Being of the same mind means that we agree to love one another, accept one another, tolerate each other’s differences, and respect each other’s right to think for ourselves. It means that we trust each other’s best intentions, not assuming the worst about each other. It means listening to each other, learning from each other, and constantly looking for common ground upon which to build stronger relationships.
The world is divided. America is more divided than at any time since the Civil War. And yes, the church is divided all too often over politics. If someone in the church is corrupting doctrine, undermining the authority of Scripture, and teaching a false gospel, well, there are many passages in the Bible that speak to how we should deal with that.
But let’s not treat each other as enemies because of political labels. Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world. His gospel is not a political gospel. His goals are not political goals. His methods are not political methods.
His kingdom is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, and His methods are grace, forgiveness, justice, and love.
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