Have you ever gotten into a political discussion at church? It’s not always the most comfortable topic.
“So what are you doing after church this afternoon?”
“Um. . . Going to the protest march.”
Awkward pause. “Oh. It’s so much noise and disruption. I’m not sure what the point is.”
That could be one of the more civil exchanges. Many Christians are reluctant to voice their political views among their brothers and sisters. And how often have we heard the advice to not talk politics around the dinner table?
While I have never been afraid to voice my political views, in recent years I am learning what it means to speak as a Christian. We as followers of Christ owe allegiance to no political party or power, and because of our neutrality, humility, and love, I think we have an important perspective on politics the world needs to hear.
1. We have a unique perspective
When entering political conversations, the first thing to remember is that we are Christians. We are not merely followers of one or another flawed human party. When lines are drawn in the sand dividing some people from others (liberal/conservative, pro-establishment/pro-democracy, etc.), these lines simply do not, and must not, apply to us.
When we offer our opinion on politics, the first and foremost opinions we have should come from the Bible. We as Christians are law-abiding citizens and submit to earthly authority (Romans 13:1-7). But we also boldly defend the dignity of the widow and orphan, and any others who are marginalized by the world (Proverbs 31:8-9).
Both of these views can be uncomfortable. On the one hand, we do not always want to submit to earthly authorities. I’ve known of missionary families who refuse to pay taxes to authoritarian governments. “Why should I help their persecution?” they ask, forgetting that Christ Himself told the Jews to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).
On the other hand, defending the weak often comes with a price. For example, Christians who speak out against forced abortions may face harassment from the community.
But when we remember that our loyalty is not to political parties or systems—but to a coming King—we can speak out lovingly, humbly, and boldly. Such a combination is uncommon in our current political landscapes, and is more likely to encourage meaningful, constructive conversation than our often superficial views. Perhaps through those conversations, our unbelieving friends might see that we hold dear something that is not swayed by political trends, and might be inspired to reconsider their own understanding of politics.
2. We are united in Christ
While we agree on submission to authority and defending the weak, Christians may disagree on how specifically to carry this out. I have dear brothers and sisters with whom I disagree vehemently when it comes time to vote. We disagree on whether or not there is anything worth protesting about and whether or not a march is a reasonable way of doing so. We disagree about the extent of authority a government should have.
So, why bother even talking about politics?
Because we know that such differences are superficial, but important. Speaking of spiritual gifts, Paul reminds the church in Corinth that “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are united in Christ, but we each have different strengths and weaknesses, and different preferences. That’s a good thing. Our flawed but individual attempts to live out Christ’s teaching make for the beautiful mosaic we call the Church.
My friends Steve and John* are both sincerely seeking to live out the teachings in the Bible to the best of their abilities. However, though they have the same foundation in the Bible, they work out the political implications very differently. In effect, they support completely opposing candidates and policies.
In the early days of their friendship, they had many heated discussions and minimal respect for one another when it came to politics. But as their friendship grew, they did not ignore the differences, but learned to lovingly and humbly challenge each other’s choices, and point each other back to the Bible.
As much as Steve disagrees with John’s politics, he has learned to trust that John is actively seeking to please God. Because of that, Steve does not tire of trying to understand how John’s favored politics (which seem so un-Biblical sometimes) connect to John’s love of God. And John patiently does likewise for Steve. They ask each other questions as they seek to understand opposing viewpoints, such as, “Why do you think this?”, “Have you considered. . . ?”, “I don’t entirely follow the connection between your points.”
By recognizing their unity in Christ, Steve and John often come to a better understanding and respect of each other’s choices, even though they still disagree. And sometimes, they even come to agreement on unexpected issues.Even though we disagree with brothers and sisters on specific issues, when we recognize our unity in Christ, we can challenge one another to love God more deeply and love man better.
3. We know who is king
Ultimately, we are not afraid to speak out politically because the Bible is political.
I’ve been reading Isaiah recently, and Isaiah gets really specific about the coming judgment of various nations and their wrongs. But each of these prophecies also point to a time where a king will reign on Zion and bring peace and prospering to all nations (Isaiah 25:6, for example).
A king is an inherently political title, and in claiming this title, God promises that He will return and right the wrongs of our broken political systems.
Clearly, the time where all nations kneel before God and recognize His authority has not come yet. But we as Christians live in hope of that day. We know that the evils our rulers perpetrate are, ultimately, temporary. We know that Christ the King is coming back, and when He does, He will bring a sword of judgment and right all wrongs (Revelation 19:15).
When we discuss politics with other people, perhaps the one thing we can all agree on is how imperfect and broken politics is, and how little faith we have in our politicians. Different people propose different solutions, but let’s be honest, have we ever seen a political system work the way it should?
When commiserating about current politics, perhaps we can offer the hope Christ has extended to us. That one day, the Perfect King will come and rule the earth in a perfect manner.
In submitting to imperfect human rulers and speaking out against the injustices they commit, we look forward anxiously to that day. We live in anticipation of the time when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And ultimately, when we discuss politics as Christians, we share the very real hope we have in Christ.
“Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)
*Not their real names.