We are now deep into election season, which seems to get longer every year. It’s easy to get cranky and frustrated—and maybe even more than a little bit angry—during political season. As a matter of fact, candidates want us to get angry. They know that an angry person is more easily manipulated and is more likely to vote.
But what frustrates me the most are not the issues and statements of the candidates. What most troubles me are the lies, the filth, the innuendos, the out-of-control anger, and the name-calling by believers who know better—but who allow the anger of the moment to justify their unchristian behavior.
I don’t like having to cringe and hang my head because of something said or posted by a fellow follower of Jesus. But as a pastor who wants to be fully committed to Jesus, has a deep love for his country, and has a real interest in the political world, I see that it is happening more often.
Don’t get me wrong. I want believers to be involved in the political process. Think through and pray through the issues—from a Biblical perspective. Share your opinions—respectfully. Volunteer for a candidate or a party—after you’ve done your homework. Run for office yourself. Vote.
But do it all in a way that honors Jesus.
Let me carefully suggest some guidelines for believers in Jesus who want to be involved in politics:
- Refuse to use putdowns and to call names. Feel free to tell me what you like about Candidate A, but don’t tell me that Candidate B is an idiot. Feel free to tell me why you disagree with Candidate B, but don’t tell me he is stupid (or worse.) If you can’t debate respectfully—don’t!
- Refuse to post or repost or quote anything you haven’t verified. One of the reasons there are so many lies on social media is that we are too quick to repost something. Remember that when you repost something, it goes out under your name. If it is a lie and you haven’t taken the time to verify it, you become a liar.
- Refuse to attempt to align Jesus with any political party. Jesus refused to align Himself with any of the philosophical/political parties in His day. (He was not a Pharisee, a Sadducee, an Essene, or a Herodian.) It is wrong to try to align Jesus with any political party in our day.
- Refuse the temptation to become so political that you become first-and-foremost an evangelist for a party or a candidate. Believers are first-and-foremost evangelists for Jesus, and if others don’t see that, we lose our voice as Christians.
- Refuse to allow your party to dictate your thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. Our thinking on the issues of today (race, war, taxes, the economy, the environment, disease, the role of government, violence, etc.) must come from the Bible.
- Refuse to allow a friendship or a relationship to be broken because of politics. (I’m tired of the, “If you believe this . . . go ahead and unfriend me” posts that are popular on Facebook.) Honestly, I have many friends I disagree strongly with—from the extreme conservatives to the extreme progressives. I can debate with them and strongly disagree, but I can also still love them.
- Refuse to act or to state that “all is lost” if we elect Party A. Do we not believe that God is still God and that He can work even through ungodly people? And hasn’t He done so numerous times throughout history? If we honestly believe that the soul of our nations depends on any one election, we overvalue our votes and undervalue the power and sovereignty of God.
- Refuse to offer simplistic and shallow (but unfair) historical parallels. (I’ve seen posts and memes comparing President Trump to Hitler. From the other side of the aisle, I’ve seen the same comparing Vice-President Joe Biden to Hitler.) As intelligent believers in Jesus, we should raise the level of our debate above the junior high level and show some respect to our current and potential leaders.
- Refuse to be unfair. (If you say that something Candidate A said 25 years ago isn’t relevant because they’ve changed, then apply that same standard to Candidate B. If you see character flaws in Candidate B that disqualify him from office, use that same standard for Candidate A.)
Understand where I’m coming from. My commitment to Jesus—if I’m a Christian—has to override my commitment to any candidate and party. And so therefore, I must live in such a way (even in politics) that gives honor and glory to God and that follows His standards.
I respectfully ask the same of every believer in Jesus.