The night before the crucifixion was a dark time. Jesus’ followers didn’t know what was going to happen next, but there were hints of a time of trial and persecution unlike any they’d ever known.
In the midst of their uncertainty, Jesus had one instruction, one command for them: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: because you unfriend acquaintances who disagree with you on Facebook.”
Wait. That’s not it.
Maybe it was… “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: since you defend your political convictions more passionately than you defend the gospel.”
That can’t be right.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: by seeing and hearing your comments calling other believers ‘delusional,’ ‘stupid,’ or ‘evil’ when they’re voting for a different candidate than you.”
You probably see where I’m going with this. What Jesus actually told his followers before his death, the “new command” he gave them, was: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.”
That’s what Jesus left his followers with, what he said would be the distinguishing mark of the band of religious rebels soon to be known as Christians—their love for one another. In Gethsemane before his crucifixion, he prayed for unity among believers, not just his disciples, but all who would come after them.
So, this election season… how are we doing?
What would the world say about the church based on how we’ve been treating each other the past few months?
Sadly, I don’t think it would be very positive.
It’s been a brutal election season, and I’m not just talking about mudslinging T.V. commercials. The attitudes and actions we’ve (cynically) come to expect from politicians, we’ve brought into the church—name-calling, bitterness, outbursts of anger—and it’s our witness that suffers most. Right or wrong, people are coming to conclusions about what Christianity is, based on what their Christian friends say during election season.
These are dark times, and we may well be facing trials and persecutions unlike any we’ve ever known. But instead of letting that lead us to shame our brothers and sisters who disagree with us, let’s use this next week as a chance to show a watching world what God’s love looks like in action.
Here are some reminders for this next week as we approach the election.
Pray more than you talk. I’m guilty of ignoring this one. Sometimes I think the whole entire world needs to know all of my opinions. Last week I realized: If I spent as much time praying for our country, our leaders, and unity in the church as I did talking politics, that would be a much better use of my time. Of course, it’s fine to express your views and reasoning, but the Bible never once commands us to put up yard signs, post news articles, or argue with our neighbor… but it tells us many times to pray for political concerns. (Jeremiah 29:7, 11-13, 1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Don’t call names. This might seem playground-basic, but I find myself defaulting to it from time to time. Because if I’ve been carefully thoughtful about my choice, someone who comes to the opposite conclusion must be less intelligent or at least ignorant, right? Wrong. And, regardless, even if I disagree with a person’s choices (or even if their reasoning is really terrible), I don’t have a right to mock them. If we can’t respect others, we can’t have productive conversations with them. (Romans 12:16-18, 21)
Listen to understand, not to attack. When a co-worker explains why she’s voting a certain way, don’t interrupt with counter-examples or tear apart what you see as flaws in her logic. At this stage, you probably won’t change each other’s minds, and that’s okay… but try to understand her. When you make others feel heard, it’s a way of showing the selfless attitude that Christians should strive for, following the example of Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-11)
Love others even when they don’t respond graciously. This is a hard one. For a few months leading up to the election, our brothers and sisters in Christ suddenly seem like the enemy, especially the ones who seem determined to pick fights. But since Jesus called us to love our enemies, we don’t have justification to respond unkindly just because someone else “started it” by saying something rude, uncalled for, or even slanderous. As my Sunday School teacher always said, “That’s why Jesus blessed the peacemakers—he knew no one else would!” It’s hard, but that’s what we’re called to as believers. (James 3:17-18)
Remember that God is in control. No election results can dethrone our God, and no human schemes can undermine his plan. I think many of us need this reminder, and here’s why: When we trust completely in the Lord, we don’t have to act or speak out of fear. God doesn’t need you to frantically debate everyone to the ground or counter every argument so you can wrest power into the hands of your chosen candidate. The future is in God’s hands, and that confidence should give us hope… and the ability to speak with grace in a world where panic is being shouted through a megaphone. (Psalm 20:7-8, Daniel 4:34-35)
When we live like this, people will notice. Jesus knew this, which is why His command to love one another matters so much, especially in dark and uncertain times.
We are representatives of God first, not a political party. Let’s say true things about our faith in how we talk about politics, and let’s choose love instead of judgment.
Amy Green loves to talk about religion, politics, and other controversial subjects from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She blogs about issues of faith, culture, and ordinary life at themondayheretic.wordpress.com.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: November 2, 2016