As we celebrate American Independence Day, many of us are looking forward to burgers, hotdogs, baseball, and spending time with friends and family. We gather to celebrate the ideals upon which our nation was founded. A Union founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But as we look to the current cultural climate, the Union doesn’t feel so united. Increasing bitterness across party lines makes it feel as though we’re always fighting with each other. Sometimes, disagreement over the basic facts of a situation derails a conversation before it even begins. Aligning with our political tribes seems to be all that matters.
Sadly, this sense of partisan tribalism has even snuck its way into the Church.
But this kind of embittered debate erodes everything that Jesus came to create among the community of his followers. And it’s a major problem for the Church’s credibility. We’re the people who claim to have been made one in Jesus. The hope of the world doesn’t inspire very much hope if it looks just like everything else in the world–disunited.
But at the same time, political conformity in the Church isn’t healthy either. The solution isn’t to suppress political diversity or genuine discussion. What we need is for believers to be able to hold differing political opinions and yet still be civilized, respectful, and empathetic. We need to be able to agree to disagree and still join together in the mission Jesus has given us.
It is possible to disagree and yet do so full of grace and love. And that’s what the Church really needs from its members.
Here are 5 reasons why believers need to be able to disagree politically.
1. The bible doesn’t tell us who to vote for.
Jesus is neither a Republican or a Democrat. In fact, Jesus wasn’t even a part of any of the popular political parties of his own day (as I write about here). And Jesus never commands us to hold any particular political affiliation other than with the new Kingdom he has ushered in.
To say that any one political party is the “Christian” party would be to do great damage to what the Church is actually called to be. We can never question the legitimacy of someone’s faith or spiritual maturity simply based on their party affiliation.
When we mix our spiritual identity with our political affiliation, we’re bound to begin misinterpreting certain truths in the bible to fit our political agenda. And this goes for both sides of the spectrum, whether you consider yourself liberal or conservative.
This isn’t to say that our political views aren’t shaped by our understanding of who God is and who he has created us to be. Our political beliefs should definitely be biblically informed. But it is to say that no one political party corners the market on truth.
The Holy Spirit does not make his home in Congress or the White House. He makes his home in the Church.
So while we should hold our understanding of political solutions to the nation’s ills with both passion and forethought, we need to stop short of assuming that our view is the only possible view.
And we should never doubt the strength of another believer’s spirituality or moral virtue simply based on their political party identification. If we do, we’re doing so without biblical warrant.
2. The issues at play are complicated and nuanced.
The political issues at play in any nation are never simple. Anyone who thinks they’re simple doesn’t understand them well enough. And complicated and nuanced issues call for a complicated and nuanced approach. So in any one issue, any number of schools of thought about how to approach it will certainly emerge.
And while not all ideas or approaches are created equal, on any given issue, the best approach is honestly up for debate. That’s why we’re fortunate to live in a society where differing views can be discussed, debated, and voted upon–so that the best ideas have a better chance of winning out.
But in our passion, we must never forget the humanity of those who may be on an opposing side of the argument. Just because they’re a political opponent, that doesn’t make them a mortal enemy. To view another person that way is to place a greater value on our ideas than on people.
Again, some political solutions have more biblical warrant than others. And we constantly need to use discernment when deciding what to support. But grace and love are still our guiding principles.
In our passion, we must never forget the humanity of those who may be on an opposing side of the argument. Just because they're a political opponent, that doesn't make them a mortal enemy. Click To Tweet
3. The Church is meant to be a diverse group.
What if political disagreement in the Church isn’t actually a problem we need to solve? What if it’s simply a supernatural reality that can only be a result of God’s presence?
How could people with diametrically opposing political views still choose to call each other family? How could political opponents be brothers and sisters in a mission that unites them eternally? That’s just what Jesus does.
And that’s what Jesus has always been in the business of doing. Among his own twelve apostles, he had conservatives and progressives. He had one man who was anti-establishment and another man who was very much part of that establishment. These twelve had a real diversity of views. And yet, when the Spirit of Jesus empowered them, they literally changed the world–together.
This is the power that Jesus offers the Church even today.
4. Tribalism is antithetical to the gospel.
When Jesus came, he broke down barriers that no one could have ever imagined. He took slaves and their owners and made them equals. He took people from across bitter racial divides and made them brothers and sisters. He took groups of people who never would have spoken to each other and made them one family.
The Church is one body, because every follower of Jesus has been made one with Jesus. And when we’re one with Jesus, we’re one with each other.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
What’s more is that the fact that we’re one doesn’t mean that our uniqueness goes away. That’s the beautiful thing. Our differences remain, and yet we still become one.
To divide our churches along party lines would be to speak directly against this miracle and mystery that Jesus died and rose for.
A believer with an opposing political view isn’t an opponent. They’re a brother or sister. So we can learn to disagree without being so disagreeable. We have to.
5. The Church can be political without being partisan.
None of this is to say that the Church should withdraw from being involved with political issues. Many of the fights the Church should be engaged in are very political in nature. But it’s possible to be political without becoming completely aligned with one party or the other.
You can fight for the rights of the unborn without being a republican. And you can fight for the dignity of immigrants without being a democrat.
But what often ends up happening is this: Someone speaks up on a political issue and urges people to seek the heart of Jesus in the matter. And what others hear isn’t what is said, but rather all the imported assumptions about what that person’s political party must be.
If it’s the same party as you, you support it. If it’s the opposing party, you oppose it. This gets us nowhere other than to the same old fights we’re weary of hearing about.
But in this continued cycle, we never actually ask what the heart of Jesus is in that issue. We just toe the party line. We place our allegiance to our party over our allegiance to Jesus.
At the end of the day, it’s okay to disagree. But it’s never okay to do so just because we’re simply and uncritically keeping in line with our camp’s party line. Our love and allegiance to Jesus should always outweigh our allegiance to the political party with which we most identify.
Jesus came to break down barriers and forge a new community in his image. It’s a messy process, for sure. But let’s embrace the mess. Let’s be okay with not having all the answers. Let’s disagree passionately even as we love each other passionately. And this strange union in the Church will be a witness that Jesus is better than anything the world has to offer.