Here’s a op-ed headline I once saw: “Political rhetoric will keep getting worse. As government grows, so do the stakes—and the vitriol.”
This is one reason Christians need to be extremely careful about political involvement. Are we participating in bad rhetoric, divisiveness, and vitriol (i.e., being highly caustic)? Is this the message we want to send, the representation of the gospel we want to spread? If we, because of divisive, political rhetoric, cut ourselves off from opportunities to spread the gospel, have we not done what is shameful? Have we not acted carnally? Is this what God wants from us? Or would the Lord rather say, in the words of the apostle, “You did not learn Christ in this way” (Eph 4:20)?
We have a greater message that needs to be heard, and bad political vitriol will get in the way. Our message is not about politics. It is about what God did to save our souls and redeem us for our true purposes. Politics will fade. Political leaders come and go, and we need the gospel message out there far more than we need party-line politics. Let’s commit to the greater path. Will some hate us for this anyway? Of course. They hated our Lord. But for our part, we must do what is honorable and faithful to Him and His message to all the world. God wills for none to perish (2 Pet 3:9), for all to know the truth (1 Tim 2:4), and this includes those on every side of all political parties and issues. If we burn bridges with people over politics and thereby lose opportunities to teach the gospel, have we done what is pleasing to God?
It is particularly sad to see Christians divide among themselves over earthly politics. Do we imagine that God is well-pleased that we have made enemies within our own ranks because of adherence to a party-line or a political figure? It ought not to be so among the people of God!
Remember, again, that of the disciples Jesus chose, one was a tax-collector and another was a zealot. They were political enemies who put down their party affiliations to be disciples of Jesus and brothers in Christ. We hear of no fights they had over political affiliations. Do we have the courage to do the same? Politicians and politics won’t preach the gospel. That’s up to us.
This is not about whether Christians can or should vote. This is about the ugly rhetoric that has engulfed party politics. If Christians cannot transcend political parties and ugly mudslinging in order to share God’s good news, then we have bigger problems than who we voted for or support.
There is a way to peace, and that way is a bridge that brings us into fellowship with our Lord who died for us. “But,” one may counter, “didn’t Jesus say that He came to bring a sword” (cf. Matt 10:34)? Indeed, He did. But this sword is not a political sword; it is a spiritual sword that will divide those who seek to follow Jesus from those who reject the rule of the King of Kings. This is not the same as political, carnal divisions over adherence to human agendas and earthly figures. We cannot know that one is following the Lord based on their political party. No political party is “Christian.” Even if Christians tend toward particular political positions (e.g., on moral matters), no party will be “the gospel” party, and there is never an excuse for the child of God to descend into the abyss of being easily provoked, showing a lack of kindness, and engaging in bitter rhetoric (cf. 1 Cor 13:4-7).
Consider these two scenarios:
1. A Christian seeks to share the good news of Jesus Christ. He treats others with respect, tries to show love and kindness, yet firmly stands for the truth of the gospel. Others who have no mind to serve God dislike the Christian for this. They may begin to mock and engage in subtle forms of persecution. Perhaps they ramp up their opposition to the point of physical persecution. The Christian, meanwhile, is praying for them, seeking opportunities to talk with them about the Lord, warning them of final judgment to come so that they might learn the truth and be saved. This is the Christian’s goal. He hasn’t engaged in political fights. He’s avoided calling others names due to party affiliations. He has simply engaged in seeking to serve and teach what Scripture says.
2. A Christian seeks to convert others to a political agenda. He says little about the gospel, other than that he is a Christian and all Christians need to be in his political party or they aren’t really holy. He often puts out political jabs, cuts down those who differ in political issues, and mocks the opposing party. He lets it be clearly known that his political enemies are fools and idiots, barely worthy of living in our great country. His line of friends and enemies is clearly marked by political boundaries. Meanwhile, he’s said precious little about the salvation offered by God’s grace to all; he has said much about why his political enemies are ruining the world.
Who has the real opportunity to save souls? “Ah, but wait!” one counters. “Can’t a Christian be involved in politics without the rhetoric, without the vitriol, and still seek to spread the gospel with all?” Yes, that is possible, and I would not say that all who are involved in politics are necessarily covered with the filth so often associated with the political realm. But let’s be honest. How often does this happen? Can it happen? Yes. Will it happen? That’s up to the individual. Perhaps there are a few Daniels out there. They seem to be few and far between.
I do wonder, though, if this kind of scenario is kind of like what the rich ruler faced. If politics need to be put aside because it is our stumbling block, what will we do? “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:24-25). Likewise, how hard is it to enter the kingdom of God when we are drawn into the carnality and vitriol of modern politics?
The apostle Paul made it clear where he stood, and Christians everywhere ought to take their cue from his attitude. I realize we aren’t apostles, but at least consider the spirit found in the following as a guide to how we ought to approach the world:
“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:14-21, NASU)
How much reconciling to God can we accomplish if we constantly push the divisiveness of the modern political landscape through the vitriol that even those in the world can see as a problem?