A Plea for Grace in the Debate

David Burchett

Few movies have generated more mainstream quotes than the silly movie Airplane and that movie is, of course, one of my favorites. Having claimed the intellectual high ground I offer this dialogue with very anxious flyer Ted Striker and a fellow passenger.

Passenger: Nervous?
Ted Striker: Yes.
Passenger: First time?
Ted Striker: No, I've been nervous lots of times.

I sometimes think of that line when I write these humble ramblings. I have certainly been nervous a number of times because I attempt to communicate truth with grace and represent Jesus humbly even as I tackle tough topics. Nothing makes me more nervous than writing about faith and politics. I wrote a piece a couple of years ago with the tongue-in-cheek title "Will Democrats Go To Heaven?".

Here is an excerpt from that article.

"Christians are not to seek "power over" others - by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should seek to have "power under" others - winning others hearts by sacrificing for those in need." -  Dr.Gregory Boyd, Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minnesota

That is indeed what Jesus did. That is EXACTLY how a group of men and women in the first century with NO political power turned the world upside down. They sacrificially served others.

Dr. Boyd also noted that "America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ."

Hard to argue with that.  The fact is that government and laws can only restrain. Paul had a lot of thoughts on that in his letter to the Romans. Jesus can change the heart and change behavior from the inside out. I am saddened when I see good, well-intentioned people thinking that more education and regulation will solve our problems. I am certainly not against education but I would point out that it has been the brightest and best that have gotten us into such a mess on Wall Street. The problem is not lack of knowledge but a lack of understanding of the hearts of men and women. We all have a nature that needs to be changed. We deny that at our own peril and the peril of our culture.

I am not smart enough to decide what God has called people to do. If He has placed a desire for people to impact the culture through political action I am not about to question their motives. But I do believe that those of us who claim the name of Jesus need to communicate our views with grace and compassion.

I am active politically. I study issues and candidates and I always vote. I give to causes that I believe in and I would be willing to work for a candidate that shared my goals for our country. 

But I get nervous about using the church as a political base. God's Word taught effectively will mold followers of Jesus that will view social issues wisely. My goal is to introduce people to Jesus, disciple them into a real relationship with Him and then watch as the Holy Spirit changes what my sermonizing cannot.

The body of Christ is about Jesus. About being a good citizen that respects authority. And about demonstrating His amazing grace to a desperately needy world. The message should be grace, redemption and the forgiveness available to everyone. All parties are welcome at the foot of the cross. We need to spend more time there…for the good of America.

That sets the stage for today's gentle plea. May I challenge my fellow followers of Jesus to show grace in the current debate? I confess that I get angry when I witness the personal attacks on people who are simply trying to be heard. I know that my friends who are Democrats (yep, I have a bunch of them) get angry when people of faith blindly forward untrue emails about President Obama. We must do better with the dialogue.

I was guilty of that sin with President Clinton. I said ugly things about him. I did not pray for him. I did not trust God consistently to accomplish His plan and I thought that my politics had to prevail for God's plan to prevail. How arrogant on my part. I was wrong. I was obsessed with politics and it was dangerously close to idolatry. I am sure I crossed that line at times. As we head into some spirited debate I am begging my fellow followers of Christ to be graceful in your debate. Things will be said that are maddening, unfair and mean. Responding in kind damages the name of Jesus. Solomon wrote these words that are so timely today.

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
      but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. (Proverbs 15, NLT)

And later this wisdom is written.

Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses. (Proverbs 25:15, NLT)

You cannot change the minds and hearts of others by strident arguing. You cannot change the minds of some with a 2 by 4 up the side of the tempting as that may be. You can change a few hearts and minds by demonstrating the grace and good news of the Gospel of Jesus. I love the United States deeply. But I do not believe that the hope of the world is democracy even though I believe there is no better system of government. The hope of the world is Jesus. That is my message. I want to be a good citizen but I must be a grace filled representative for Christ.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through

Original publication date: August 14, 2009