2020 is an election year in America, which means we’re entering a season of political debates, advertisements, and campaigns.
But at the same time, it feels like our nation is in one, big, ugly perpetual election season all year, every year. Maybe that’s just the way it feels to me, but I imagine that you can identify with my weariness. The adversarial tone of public discourse can be downright exhausting.
It can be tempting for the Church to become part of the culture of outrage. I fear that we give into that temptation too often. What’s worse is when we use bible verses to justify our hateful tone.
Whenever a politician (particularly a president) rises to power, the response is quite predictable. Christians who are a part of the opposing political party inevitably compare that politician to the Antichrist. And the connections they draw are often quite thin.
On the other hand, Christians who are a part of the same party as that politician decry any criticism of that elected official, quoting 1 Timothy 2:1-2 where Paul instructs us to pray for our government leaders. And they often tread the line of equating political disagreement with disobedience to God.
And then when the next president is from the party opposite the previous president, these two groups of Christians do the same thing, only in reverse.
As we engage in this dance of opposition, year after year and election after election, my fear is that we put more faith in our political parties than we do in Jesus.
Yes, we should pray for and support our government leaders, whether we agree with their political stances or not. But we must never place our faith in them.
Here are 4 reasons why.
1. There’s a difference between being appointed and being anointed.
When we over-spiritualize the power given to our favorite politicians, what we do is take a good principle and push it just a bit out of focus. That principle comes from Paul’s words to the churches in Rome.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1)
No one on earth has authority who did not receive it from God. So when we submit to governing authorities, it’s because we trust the God who gave them authority.
Political leaders are appointed by God. He is sovereign–in total control. But that doesn’t mean that the leaders who are appointed are necessarily moral, spiritual, or anointed by God. That’s a key distinction.
So we support the leadership of our elected officials any way we can, but we do not entrust our lives to them. Our faith is in Jesus alone.
2. Jesus didn’t come playing the partisan politics game.
When Jesus came onto the scene, the political landscape of Israel was quite divided. The nation was under the rule of the Roman Empire, and different groups of people had differing ideas about how Israel ought to respond (as I describe in more detail here).
And the thing about Jesus is that he didn’t come to be a part of any of those political camps. In fact, there was truth in each of them that Jesus affirmed. And there were problems in each of them that he rebuked.
And that’s because Jesus had a much larger vision for what he would do in that nation than any one of those groups. I think the same is true today.
If Jesus came onto the scene today, I don’t think he would be caught up in the two party political debates that just seem to play on repeat.
To a certain extent, I think we all sense that the system is broken. Jesus didn’t come to play within that system but to transcend it supernaturally. And he has given the Church power and the call to do just that.
3. When we entrench ourselves in partisan politics, we simply reflect the culture around us rather than transforming it.
When we simply fall in with the party line, and all the talking points in our Christian circles mirror the talking points we find in political media, we’re choosing not to tap into the larger vision that Jesus has given us.
The Church is supposed to be different.
We’re supposed to be strikingly strange. We’re supposed to be weird in that it’s baffling how such a diverse collection of people could love each other so truly and so deeply. The Church is to be full of people who, by the world’s standards, should be at each other’s throats, yet treat each other with a love greater even than a family bond.
Jesus has “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” so that we could become one in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:14). And by that power, people will know that we belong to him by the way we love each other, even those followers of Jesus with whom we politically disagree (John 13:35).
That’s a love that transforms. That’s a love that saves. That’s a love that enables people to see the beauty of Jesus and the redemption he has made possible by his death and resurrection.
When we speak hatefully against other Christians and question their faith simply for having a different political view from us, we lose that powerful witness. It’s just not worth it.
The power Jesus offers is so much greater than any elected official could promise. And the best news is that Jesus doesn’t have any term limits.
4. You’ll never win anyone to Jesus by hating them. And you’ll never love someone if all you do is fear them.
Fear and hate are so intricately connected to one another. And that is never clearer than in an election year.
We tend to hate what we fear. And we fear what we don’t understand. And the reason we don’t understand is because we haven’t taken enough time to actively choose love. When we don’t develop empathy, we are prone to build walls rather than bridges.
Followers of Jesus are called to reach the people around them with his love. And we can’t very well do that if we are calling them stupid, godless, or anti-American across our social media channels.
You might not feel like you’re personally attacking anyone. But when you post spiteful content against the people who disagree with you politically, it’s hard for the people who hold those views not to take it personally.
And if they aren’t a follower of Jesus, sitting on the receiving end of such hate from a believer probably doesn’t attract them to Jesus.
This isn’t to say there is no time or place for political discussions. But online probably isn’t the wisest forum to engage. In fact, when you do engage in a political disagreement with someone in person, and you do so with respect, empathy, kindness, and friendship, you model the kind of unity that Jesus sought to bring.
Unity doesn’t require uniformity. But it does require a mutual regard for one another.
We have the power to transcend the divide.
This post may seem a little direct. But I don’t bring any of this up simply to complain to you or about you. I bring it up because I truly believe that followers of Jesus have an opportunity here.
While public discourse in America is about as hateful, crass, and disrespectful as it has ever been, the Church has an opportunity to be such a beautifully stark contrast. We have the opportunity to show love in a space that seems to be devoid of it.
But the only way we’ll be able to do that is if our sense of security isn’t tied to who will win the next election cycle. Our sense of trust and security has to come from our connection with Jesus. If it does, we will have so much power. We will really make a difference.
So, yes. Pray for your government leaders. Support them in any way you are able. But do not put your trust in them. They cannot bear that weight. They are broken people in need of a Savior, just like you. So pray for them. But entrust your life to your Savior.