It’s an election year – which just about guarantees that political discussions will cause sparks to fly even among Christians. While I believe that Christians can all agree that God is very conservative when it comes to the definition of marriage (Genesis 2:24) and the sanctity of human life (Psalm 139:13-16), it is equally true that God is very liberal with mercy (Matthew 5:7) and equality (Luke 14:13-14). The Republican Party does not equal biblical allegiance. The Democratic Party is not seeking to honor God. Independents are not advancing the gospel. However, there are Christians serving in and voting for all sides.
Every international mission trip I have ever taken came with a caution not to discuss politics – neither American politics nor the politics of the country I was visiting. The reasoning is simple: political issues divide. Particularly when you will only be able to share Christ for a short time with individuals, I agree that it is best to leave political discussions off the table. However, in our day-to-day lives with people that are embedded in our circles, I think positive political discussions can take place when Christians keep proper perspective. First, remember what is most important. Second, speak the truth in love. Third, trust that God is sovereign.
Debates are healthy. Christians may learn and grow from one another (Proverbs 27:17). However, it is necessary to remember what the goal is. The Kingdom of heaven is primary (Matthew 6:33). Any earthly political establishment is secondary (Daniel 2:44).
Second, speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Your goal in political conversation (as well as anything else in life) should not be merely to be “right” but to be holy. You should not engage a spouse, coworker, or neighbor in an argument just to prove your political ideology is correct. Likewise, you should also be cautious with rebuttals (Proverbs 13:3). Be sensitive to how the conversation is effecting the Kingdom and disengage if the outcome will not glorify God, i.e. your brother-in-law is no longer coming to family Thanksgiving because he thinks you are overly aggressive.
Discussing political issues with brothers and sisters in Christ is difficult enough. An even greater challenge is to determine how Christians can dialogue with those of another faith. Keep in mind that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. I know of no nonbeliever who converted to Christianity because a Christian explained how wrong his or her political thinking was on Facebook. I have also never seen a heated debate on social media that ended with a concession on one side followed by reconciliation of all parties involved. Explaining how you view political issues and see political leaders from a biblical perspective will likely make no sense to a person of another faith (1 Corinthians 1:18). Thus, I would urge caution in conversing deeply felt political issues with nonbelievers.
As an example of the difference, I enjoy political discussions with my older brother who is a Christian. Besides a couple of big issues, we disagree on just about everything else politically. We voted different party lines in the previous election, we have different ideas on how to fix the economy, both of us would be terrified if the military adopted the other’s policies, thoughts on immigration reform are not even on the same page… you get the picture. I love Jesus. He loves Jesus. Important to this example is that we both love one another. We can disagree, on occasion we even disagree loudly and passionately, but our love for one another causes any disagreement to be trivial in our relationship to one another and our relationships to Christ. I would never have the same political conversations with my lesbian neighbors. Whenever I see them outside our homes I want to speak love and light into their lives, not ask them who they are voting for. I also very rarely make any political comments on social media. There are too many ways my words might get misconstrued by others. I am sinful enough without leaving a trail of political jargon that impedes my representation of Jesus.
As a final note on keeping perspective, trust that God is sovereign. “Our God is in the heavens: he does all that he pleases,” Psalm 115:3. God may accomplish His purposes through those that follow him or unbelievers. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Fundamentalists, Liberals, lobbyists, heads of state, speech writers, gun carriers, hippies… all will one day bend a knee to King Jesus (Philippians 2:10). When the world seems to spiral out of control with public shootings, mass rioting, and acts of terrorism Jesus is still on the throne. No politician or even an entire political party will be able to solve these problems. Only Jesus is able to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). By the same token, God has allowed elected officials to hold political power. Therefore, we should submit to earthly authority (Romans 13:1). And, we should pray for our political leaders (1 Peter 2:1-2) whether we voted for them or not.
So, have informed political discussions in love with those close to you based on your biblical worldview, but do not neglect to live out the gospel at the expense of winning a political debate (1 John 3:18). Paul pleaded with those in Ephesus to put on the full armor of God because he properly understood that Christians are at war (Ephesians 6:10-20). No battle – argument, discussion, debate, policy issue, election – is worth winning if the war is lost for one’s soul.
Chelsea Kellum holds a Master of Arts in Political Science from Mississippi State University. She has also studied international development at the University of Southern Mississippi. She has the honor of being the wife of Scooter Kellum and mother of two preschool boys, Tripp and Will. She and her family currently reside in Montgomery, Alabama.