2020 was the election year of all election years. I know, speaking for myself, I’m ready for this all to be behind us. No matter who you are or what you believe, it seems during this season it’s hard to avoid political conversations. As a Christian, it’s my belief that we have to try even harder to do these conversations well. As representatives of Christ and the Church, our opinions can unintentionally be seen as representative of the group we’re apart of. That has got me thinking: how should we act and respond in these situations? Here are a few thoughts and pointers from that reflection.
Our country is not our religion
We hear a lot that America is a Christian nation. But if you read about many of our founding fathers, their faith was not a faith that we would understand or claim today. Despite this, the way America has developed over the centuries has resulted in a nation today that very much came to greatness and was formed alongside Christian cultural norms.
Take for instance two significant holidays on our calendar: Easter and the Fourth of July. There are significant problems when you grant these holidays the same weight and value. Among Christians, Easter comes with much celebration and jubilation. Going to church on Easter is different than any other time of year, as it is the day that defines our faith. We get excited and the church service often has more energy than any other time of year. Missing Easter services in 2020 was a shame and something I hope and pray we don’t have to miss again in 2021. The Fourth of July is a great symbol and celebration in our country and allows us as a nation to reflect on how we became the nation we are and thank those who sacrificed along the way.
But so often you’ll see our Christianity and patriotism equated and treated as the same. Our God is not the God of America, but a God of Salvation and a God of the world. Which celebration is more anticipated in your home? Which brings you a greater sense of pride? Eventually, our nation will fade. It might not be in our lifetime, but history surely guarantees our “reign” in America as a world leader is a fleeting one. Christ’s reign is eternal. We already know He has the victory, while we know the exact opposite of America. Think of that!
During this election season, remember that pride for our nation should come after pride for our Savior. Also, remember that everything in life should flow through our relationship with God. This means even our pride for our nation and beliefs in politics should flow through scripture, instead of a party platform.
Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
People come first
It’s so easy to forget when talking politics that we’re all on the same team. We are all made in God’s image. Relationships and concern for the salvation of others should come before any and every conversation on politics. We need only to look to the gospels for our example. Outside of Jesus coming to die for our sins, his ministry is a consistent exercise in taking up for those underrepresented in society. It’s our job to do the same. If we’re constantly engaging in partisan political sparing, we’ll never have the opportunity to follow that example.
Over the past months, and probably frankly years, I’ve seen Republicans and Democrats in Congress say unspeakable things about each other. It’s sickening, really. But what is more sickening is seeing Christians I know and respect demonize those whose beliefs happen to be different than theirs. I’m sickened to see good people be manipulated by false narratives and unable to see their own folly.
During political conversations or postings on social media, we come into the conversation looking for a fight. And even when we don’t, the slightest slight can lead to a degeneration of our attitude and forgetting of any decorum we intended to have. I’d even argue, many times we don’t even go into these conversations with good intentions.
While it may seem hard to believe, there are Christians who strongly hold to their faith but also have strongly held political beliefs that are different than yours.
When we’re having political conversations, the first question in the back of our mind should be “How is this reflecting on my Savior?” Another good one, when talking to a non-Christian, could be “Will this, in any way, inhibit my ability to share Christ in the future?”
God is in charge
When talking about politics and elections it’s easy to aggrandize the impact of the decisions made. We talk about the consequences of the other candidate being elected and usually associate the other candidate with a downward trajectory of the country or the morality of the nation.
But when it comes to the people being elected, we have to remember God was aware of the result before we were. We also need to remember that no matter what decision is made by the people, God’s plan is sovereign and overrides the desires of any individual or group of people.
I think we will many times espouse this, but reflect for yourself: do you believe this deep down? With each of the last two presidential elections, I could provide examples of Christians who reacted in ways that seemed to show they lacked a belief in God’s control of the situation. Fighting for our beliefs can cause us to lose perspective of the big picture and result in emotional arguments and easily bring out of balance our belief in God’s control and the control of the politician. Now, I’m not telling you to fight for your beliefs. More than ever, because of the impact and influence of social media and bad information, we need to know what we believe and why we believe it through our own personal exploration. But becoming too enmeshed and engrained in the world of politics can lead to a reliance on politicians and policies instead of a reliance on God.
We talk about how crazy these times have been and go on and on about how we’ve seen nothing like it. And we probably haven’t. But if you look back at our elections and history, you’ll see times just as crazy. It’s so easy to look at things through the lens of today and forget the lens of history. Expand this view even further and look at this election in light of all humankind. I assure you, this is a lot tamer than many of the stories in the Bible. It’s so easy to aggrandize today, but it is even easier to rely fully on God and truly believe that he’s in charge and in control.
I don’t believe this craziness will end with the inauguration. I can say with confidence it will be just the same. As this nation of ours becomes less culturally Christian, we have the opportunity to show how our Christianity and relationship with Christ is separate from our belief in our country. We have the ability to differentiate ourselves from the world and show the world that we are citizens of heaven and ambassadors for Christ. Instead of directing people to a fallible political belief system, we can direct them to an infallible God. Seems like a no-lose situation. Who’s with me?