We made it 2021. And while everything is not all well, the upheaval of this Presidential election cycle has finally passed. We all can take a breath and begin to figure out how to move forward.
Many people feel hurt, confused, and unsure how to interpret the events of 2020. We endured a pandemic, protests, political unrest, personal losses, grief, and so much more.
For many the conversations around policy, politics, faith, and the future have led to real relational divides in families, churches, and more. Many find themselves feeling scared of what comes next.
Political divides and anxieties about the mystery that is the future, have the ability to steal our joy and muddy our testimonies.
While the fallout from this tumultuous year is real, our faith compels us to strive towards unity even in the midst of an increasingly divided world.
Ephesians 4:2-4 gives us this advice, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called.”
Even as we can find many ways that we disagree about policy, decision making, personalities, and politics, we are still charged with the task of “keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
As we move forward, one way to find unity in a world full of division is to bring the conversation, the focus, and pursuit of our lives back to the principles we find in the Gospel.
Here are some biblical principles to focus on when approaching politics and faith with loved ones in this tumultuous era:
1. Our Church Family Matters More Than Our Political Parties
When we see so many controversial and polar opposite opinions circulating in our world, we can begin to feel that there is no way we can remain in a community with people who view policy and politics differently than ourselves.
While this can feel very hard for us, Jesus reminds us that it is not our similarity in our points-of-view that bond us, political affiliation is not what binds us together as a church, and it’s not even status that connects us.
We read in Matthew 12:46-50 an unusual story about Jesus. His mother and brothers summon Jesus from the outside of a crowd he is ministering to and he replies by saying, “Who are my mom and brothers. Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus’ response can sound harsh and uncaring to his family members but he was trying to teach his followers an important lesson. The lesson is that when we become Jesus followers, our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and as believers, our family grows to include all Christ-followers.
Family, is not always pretty and they aren’t always people you would choose, but they are people that you love for life.
We may not always be proud of every part of our church family, there may be characters we aren’t as fond of but nonetheless, these are our people. The body of Christ… all different but all united by our shared love for Christ!
Remember, when we face disagreement about politics and policy, then our first alliance is to our Father in heaven and those who do his will. Our priority is first to be the Church… which God names as his bride and everything else is secondary.
This reality should soften our hearts and help us approach each other with more grace because we all no matter our political affiliation is on the same mission which is to love and serve God and our neighbors.
2. We Can’t Seek to Bring Kingdom to Earth Without the King
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
There are many ways we can seek God’s kingdom through our public service, political participation, and by engaging in civil discourse. Each other these parts of our society are fundamentally important–but when things don’t go the way we believe is best in these areas of our life, we can still seek first the kingdom of God.
We have a tendency as believers from all political angles, to become preoccupied with finding ways to establish what we think is the Kingdom here on Earth.
We try to do this only through policy, but along the way we can forget to pursue the King.
We want the kingdom without the King.
We must first seek the King in order to see his kingdom established on Earth as it is in Heaven. The Bible helps us know what it looks like to seek God.
The Word of God instructs us to read the Bible (Joshua 1:8), to seek him with prayer and fasting (Joel 1:14), to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), share the gospel with the lost (Romans 1:16), take care of the “least of these in our communities” (Matthew 25:40), and when this is what we live our lives for, then the rest will be taken care of by God.
There are some very hard questions Believers need to consider as we decipher the state of the faith and politics at this time. Here are a few of them:
Behind all the political evangelism that is happening in the evangelical church, what is actually guiding our hearts?
Is being known as a “voting block” really what the church should be known best for in the mainstream media?
Do your friends both in-person and online know more about your political views when they do your faith?
Which would those who know you say is most important to you: serving Jesus or your favored policy becoming enacted as law?
Reflection is so important to help us not get lost in all the noise of our age. The essence of each of these questions is for us to determine if our priorities are properly aligned.
When we seek Jesus first, then we can be encouraged in every season because we know that nothing can separate us from his love and he is working even when we don’t see it (Romans 8:31-39).
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3. God Can Work through Us No Matter Who Is Politically in Charge
It is easy to feel as though the law of the land goes against what we want to see happen then we are trapped.
Fear would want us to believe that when we lose the vote we lose the country and consequently we lose hope. Fundamentally this idea is not Biblical.
Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” I have meditated on this verse over the course of this past year when everything felt so out of control!
I needed to be reminded that I trust in God, not in science, politicians, or anything else! Not to say those things don’t matter but they don’t have the final word because ultimately it is God that holds our world and future together.
You may feel anxious that God is losing when your candidate doesn’t win an election, but I want to remind you that God can and will work no matter who is in any office.
One of the main ways he works is through you! Your ability to pursue justice, reconciliation, to save lives, to grow the economy, to show compassion, only in a very small way depends on how you vote.
God changes lives through changed people. If we want to see God’s kingdom on Earth, if we care about unborn babies, if we want to end homelessness, or whatever issue that gets you fired up, we can make the most difference when we live our lives in service to God and others.
What if evangelicals became people known for what they are for more than what they are against? What if we started moving past online posts and angry conversations and began to be boots on the ground giving our lives to those who are lost and hurting in our world?
What if we were known less as a “voting block” and more as a “doing block”? What if the church ended abortion by being such a refuge to every underresourced, scared Mom that they felt capable of having their child and knew there was an adoptive parent waiting if they needed them?
Rather than being discouraged, let’s apply our political passion to loving this world in the same way that Jesus loves us.
4. Peace Can Be Found in Jesus, and Jesus Only
John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
No politician or news outlet desires that you may have peace. I have felt that an undeniable wave of anxiety rush over me when I begin to contemplate the ways decisions of our leaders and reporters are negatively impacting our world.
Jesus does not want us to live in constant fear and anxiety.
It is easy to read the headlines and let panic draw you to shouting your side out into the world a little louder and with a little more force.
We serve a God who works through changing hearts and capturing us through his love, not through coercion or force. Really when we feel that anxiety, the most effective thing we can do is pray a little louder! Let God hear our hearts and ask him to have mercy.
We have to follow his loving lead and resist the temptation to let fear turn us into brash and extreme people. Let’s not forget that Luke 6:27 reminds us to love our enemies not just our friends.
Love looks like speaking the truth but always allowing our words to be filled with love.
We have to stay grounded in these truths that God is our peace, our provision, he gives us the strength to love those we see as our enemies, we can trust in him alone, and the primary mission of our lives is to seek God first.
This can help us navigate the difficult spaces in our culture with peace, wisdom, and love. When we keep it simple and focus on loving God and loving others, it is in these small acts of faithful obedience that God can do miracles.
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Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.