When most Christians consider navigating political differences, they usually consider not bringing it up at Christmas dinner or refusing to discuss it with their friends or family. Is avoiding confrontation the Biblical route to take? How can we grow as Christians if not through conflict?
The Biblical quote “love your neighbor” applies to everyone. Now, that’s often a difficult pill for Christians to swallow. With so much contempt brewing between our neighbors on the other side of the aisle, it can be challenging to approach political conflict with your neighbor in a Biblical and Christ-like manner. Conservatives are generally viewed as cold, uncaring, and greedy. In contrast, liberals are often seen as immoral, unpatriotic, and sensitive. We must denounce these stereotypes to seek growth in our relationships with others and with God.
As Christians, we must realize that our systems of government are man-made and, therefore, inherently flawed. That means that our political system is not considered holy or righteous, and trying to build a party based solely on our theology is naive. It also seeks to discount our neighbors with ideological differences. It’s not wrong to identify with a party, but Christians must realize that ultimately our identity is in Christ. We should seek to further our convictions over our party; agreeing with every aspect of a political party could be considered idolatry.
Being how our citizenship is a heavenly one, some Christians consider politics to be a worldly affair and something to avoid. Other Christians view politics as a tool to help further our conviction for Christ and express love to our neighbors who may disagree with us. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what the will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
God calls us to love our neighbors and enemies as we love ourselves. That means Christians don’t have an excuse to be posting derogatory content on social media to attack and demean the other side. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18) It’s hard to love a relative when they mention something contradicting our beliefs. Yet, if Christians shy away from the difficult conversations, it fosters resentment and is a refusal to follow one of God’s greatest commandments.
Political arguments are usually “won” by whoever is loudest, yet loving those that disagree with us can NOT end in a shouting match. It can be challenging to love, but we must remember that love is a choice that we make. Christians are called to walk with God and be as He is. God is love. How can Christians show grace by spewing hate and discontent towards our neighbors in Christ? We can’t.
If Christians are to love as God has commanded, we must do our best to understand one another. After all, how can we hope to love one another without understanding each other? Christians must listen to those who speak, think, and look differently than we do, believers and nonbelievers. To love someone, we must know them. Christians must seek out understanding and listen to opposition without interrupting or dismissing them; doing so is using our pride to demean the loving example of Christ that Christians should do their best to follow, which can cause people to look away from God and to darkness.
“My dear brothers and sister, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
Christians and those that disagree with us often want the same things: a safer country, to help the sick and poor, etc. The issue is that we disagree on how to obtain such goals. To truly fulfill God’s commandment to love one another, we must strive for a deeper understanding of those with differences of opinion and speak to them with love. The world wants us to believe our political opponents are the enemy; in reality, Satan is the enemy, and he utilizes the political divide to push God’s children further away from each other. Seeking unity and love will help Christians navigate towards more profound and meaningful relationships with God and each other.