Promoting Unity Amid Political Disagreement
What does faithful Christian living look like in a society infected with intense political polarization and disagreement? I want to propose some guidelines intended to help us graciously navigate this environment without feeling compelled to vacate whatever political positions we might hold just to keep the peace.
Jonathan Leeman, one of the elders of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, recently wrote an article intended to help church elders across the nation promote unity in their churches (and cities) in a season of political polarization. Although I am writing more generally to all Christians (not just elders), some of the guidelines I am proposing are adapted from his article.
6 Exhortations for Pursuing Unity in a Polarized Age
1. Let's pray for "diverse unity" in the body of Christ. By God's grace we can hold different political views and still praise God together, serve together, and eat together as God's family. Can you imagine what a powerful witness this "diverse unity" might be to downtown Gainesville and beyond? I say that we should pray for "diverse unity" since it is something only God can provide by softening our hearts and giving us profound patience, kindness, and other spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22).
2. Let's consider whether or not our love for God is more obvious than our love for our political positions. If we asked our friends, neighbors, and co-workers to describe what (or whom) it is that we love the most, how would they respond? What does the content of our social media accounts suggest would be the answer to this question? Clearly there is a time and a place for political discussions and our relationship with God will influence our political views. But there will not be unity in the body of Christ unless The One Who Unifies (God!) is our chief love.
3. Let's season our speech and writing with love and grace. As Christians we should always error on the side of being TOO gracious rather than "winning" the argument. In fact - are we willing to "lose" a political argument for the sake of loving others well and maintaining an opportunity to be in a right relationship with them? Let's agree to speak well of others even when we're criticized. And let's consider whether or not social media engagement is a wise choice in our political age. The wise course of action will vary from person to person. But if our time on social media is 20% helpful and 80% harmful - should we even be on there?
4. Let's think twice before going public about our political positions. Before we go public about our political views - two important considerations are in order.
- Should I go public about this position at all? Is it reasonable to expect that my public contribution will advance the cause of my political position in an edifying way? Will it unnecessarily hurt other people? Might it cause misunderstanding (an especially important question in the age of brief social media posts on Facebook and Twitter)?
- If I should make a public contribution (either verbally or in writing), what should be the nature and tone of the contribution? For example - we may need to make public statements about justice issues in our community. But how can we make those statements boldly yet graciously? How can we ensure that we are representing others honestly and respectfully?
5. Let's preach and teach the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). In other words - let's preach and teach methodically through whole books of the Bible from various biblical genres. This will help us make sure that we're preaching and teaching what the Bible actually says rather than what we want it to say after we read a news article or social media post that we don't like. We want to protect ourselves from consciously or subconsciously structuring our preaching and teaching in order to grind political axes. And when we're faithful to preach the whole counsel of God - we'll find that God has quite a lot of wisdom to inject into our political age.
6. Let's rally around our Statement of Faith - not the platform of a particular political party. City Church is not a Republican church or a Democratic church or a Libertarian church. We are God's church, and we are united under our convictions about who he is and what he is doing in the world. Moreover - let's prayerfully do our best to empathize with people who disagree with us politically. You can find a great example of this in the sermon introduction that Pastor Mark Dever preached to his congregation on the Sunday after the November election.
Church - may our political behavior serve the mission Jesus gave us to love God and others. And in the words of the Apostle Paul from Ephesians 4, let's be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."