Updated: Nov 8, 2020
As I clutched my phone, watching twitter give me the latest updates of the election, I got a text, “Check out this post!”
I abandoned my Twitter feed to switch over to Facebook. A Christian leader, wrote an incendiary comment, equating counting votes with destructive evil.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I made the mistake of scrolling through the comments. Christians were agreeing with his statements. Comments about how the election was being stolen and that mail-in-ballots are illegal followed his comment.
As I was processing this news, my phone buzzed with an alert. The police had detained two men and were investigating a tip that armed men were going to attack a ballot counting center.
Dangerous comments on Facebook and Twitter have led to acts of violence in our country in the past. Rhetoric is a powerful tool, that politicians have been using to both to heal and to wound. Proverbs testify to the power of the tongue, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” We are seeing the dangers of harmful words. It seems predictable — although it is still disappointing and painful — that our President is engaging in dangerous and violent language. But the fact that pastors and church leaders are using the same language, loosely cloaked in Christian verbiage, is disturbing.
Politics is part of Discipleship
It’s important to point out that engaging in politics is an important part of discipleship. Adam Taylor writes, “Christ was an activist who turned upside down the patterns of his world, ushering in a new kingdom that often stands in direct opposition to our earthly kingdom.” As we follow Christ, he invites us, as citizens of God’s kingdom, to stand in opposition to this world’s injustices.
Learning how to follow Jesus in the public sphere is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to mature us as disciples. As disciples, we are called to seek God’s kingdom. But often, our own desires stop and allegiances with the world’s values morph our discipleship into tame consent of the powers and principalities of this world.
While we are all called to seek God’s kingdom, we as the church will disagree with how to pursue God’s kingdom. This diversity of thought is a strength of the church.
Many of us, have chosen to align with political affiliations. I usually vote Democrat and I have since I was eighteen years old. I prayerfully consider the entire ballot before I vote. My understanding of caring for the poor and justice means that I am aligned with the democratic party. But there are some instances, where I vehemently disagree with my own party.
It is helpful to work with political parties. But our political affiliation must always come second to our allegiance to Christ. In Compassion & Conviction, the authors, Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Christ Butler write, “It’s imperative that Christians are deliberate about avoiding partisan and ideological indoctrination. We also compromise our faith when we look to political tribes for validation simply because we want to belong. Our partisan and ideological affiliations should never become religious in nature.”
Our discipleship compels us to follow God into the public square, but our affiliation in the body of Christ compels us to learn to disagree with one another while being unified in Christ. Paul writes about the importance of unity often. In Romans, Paul writes, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s plea for unity was not an encouragement to ignore disagreements. He writes about the disagreements he had with other apostles and teachers. Rather that we are called to have the “same attitude of mind towards each other.”
We can disagree and still choose to see each other as sons and daughters of Christ. We can choose to be counter-cultural and refuse to dehumanize those we disagree with and try to see their perspective.
There is a difference between disagreement and being silent in the face of injustice. Those of us who love Jesus must always speak in love and that requires that we "break the chains of injustice." Unity should never be at the expense of God's people.
Those in our current culture who are claiming that Liberals are destroying America and stealing the election are talking about brothers and sisters like me. We — liberal Christians — are part of the same body of Christ as our conservative brothers and sisters. The divisive rhetoric is not only hurtful, but it is also driving people away from the church.
A God of Order
I love how orderly God is. The beauty of creation testifies that God loves order. One of the things God uses to create order is human, flawed governments. Not only does God use flawed governments to create order he also used humans to bring justice to unjust governments.
In his book, Reading While Black, Esau McCaulley discusses the limits God places on our ability to discern evil. He writes, “We cannot claim divine sanction for the proper timing and method of solving the problems we discern.” While I do not agree with my brothers and sisters who are claiming that the election is rigged, I can understand their desire for a fair election. However, followers of Jesus do not get to advocate for anarchy, even when we believe evil powers are at work.
As Christians, we should always speak out against evil. But in doing so we have to recognize that the state does have responsibilities that our sovereign God allows. Paul wrote in Romans, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
Romans 13:1 does not give us permission to allow evil governments to continue to oppress God’s children. But it does remind us that speaking out against evil systems, doesn’t absolve us from the very real consequences of this world.
The Christian leaders who are advocating violence, or civil unrest because states are counting lawful ballots are forgetting that we as believers have a responsibility to the state. Or as McCaulley wrote, “We are not anarchists, but we do recognize that the state is in fact under God.
Blessed are the Peacemakers
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” In a violent world, our call to peacemaking is radical. McCauley writes, “Biblical peacemaking is the cessation of hostilities between nations and individuals as a sign of God’s in-breaking kingdom.” To stand in the gap of two groups that disagree and help them find common ground is a miracle that the church is commanded to do.
Our country is divided. I believe that the divisions in our country have existed since it’s formation and the past four years have pulled back the curtain. Jonathon Walton wrote, “[The responses to an incident at a Trump rally] highlights the stark contrast between those who feel at home in America, those who feel they are losing the home they love, and those trying to make a home in the United States. The sentiments have always been present. America may claim and aspire to unity and oneness, but the livid experiences of those who reside here show the opposite is true.”
As states continue to count ballots and our President falsely claims a rigged election, Christ is giving us the invitation to become radical peacemakers.
Peace cannot exist if injustice is ignored. Rather peacemakers are people that name the injustice and provide opportunities to seek restoration.
This election has given Christians the ability to testify to God’s reconciling work on the cross. To show how Christ’s death doesn’t just reconcile us to God, but also reconciles us to one another. Paul writes in Ephesians, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in this flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.”
Could you imagine, if, during this time of unrest, all Christians stood together united in one mind, to stand for peace? Could you imagine the public witness of Christians, who didn’t ignore injustice but offered a road to repentance, restoration, and reconciliation for our country?
We have an opportunity, dear brothers and sisters, to be peacemakers. Let us throw off the allegiances to anything other than God’s kingdom so that we can pursue radical peace.