When election season rolls around, emotions run high. Churches and families can be split down the middle — right versus left and anywhere in-between. Water cooler talk at the office must be kept to the weather.
No matter which way you vote, it is easy to focus on the issues only and forget about the soul of the person running for office and even the souls who are voting.
Swapping biases, starting heated debates, or prodding those with opposing beliefs can be riveting and get your blood pumping. It’s compelling to jump into an online debate and really “let ‘em have it” with memes and quippy one-liners.
In fact, we can derive much satisfaction from a good political policy banter. Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers say in their book, I Think You’re Wrong: (But I’m Listening) A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations,
The hard truth is, too often we engage with issues only in a search for information that will prove our point. We have been as guilty of that as anyone else.
So, what does the Bible tell us about how we should treat political leaders — should we even pray for them?
Political Leaders Are People
Political leaders are people. Jesus loves people, all people, regardless of political affiliation. When Jesus spoke to the masses during His Sermon on the Mount, He explained to us how we should treat others:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (Matthew 5:3-11).
If politicians are people and Jesus died for people and we are to treat people according to the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — then I have a few questions for you?
- Do you want others to pray for and support you?
- Do you want others to respect you as a human being?
- Do you want others to hold you the standard you expect of them?
- Do you want others to say that about you or to your face?
As a homeschool parent, you often find yourself in the middle of a variety of hands-on and interactive educational activities. One of these was a Christian political procedure program held at our state’s capital. I was excited to have my family attend a class in the very building the laws that affect us were being made.
We dressed in blazers, looking super professional, and ready to learn about our government. I joined a friend in the parent’s seating area and watched as our kids took their place, on the back row, with the other 100-plus elementary students. A little into the program, the teachers were putting on a skit explaining how debate worked — they pretended to be current political leaders.
When one politician’s name was mentioned, all the children cheered. When the other person’s name was voiced, all the children booed — except ours, they turned around looking at us with confused faces and shrugged. Our kids knew who both people were but had been taught that we respect others’ opinions, we do not have to agree, but we must show respect.
It was one of those proud moments as a parent. And, yet, I was saddened at the instant, overwhelming reaction had by the other school kids who were a cross-section of Christian homes in our state.
You see, smear campaigns, name-calling, and mocking are just plain playing dirty and not respectful to the human life, created in the image of God. I love how Holland and Silvers illustrate this point in their book,
We don’t want to be challenged or even questioned, because we believe there is too much at stake. We have tied together our religious beliefs, our pride in our upbringings, and our policy positions until they’ve become like a tangled mess of necklaces that we shove in a drawer — still treasured but unwearable.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
The Bible Speaks about Government
Jesus had things to say about the political leaders of His day, Matthew 22:21 tells us, “Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’”
Romans 13:1 weighs in too, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Joseph is a good example to us of something painfully wrong being redeemed by God to accomplish good. He was sold by his own brothers into slavery, falsely accused of sexual assault, imprisoned, and, finally, Joseph was in a position of power to save a country, and his family, from starvation, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
So often we do not “get” (or like) what is happening around us — the big picture. Perhaps we cannot see because there is a larger story being written that God has not finished yet, just as with Joseph. We know the here and now, how it affects us immediately. But we need a worldview, which includes a global, historical, and generational understanding too.
The Bible is not silent on recommendations for proper human behavior and interaction, which transcends time in history and political affiliation, such as I Timothy 2:1-2,
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
Make a Real Difference
While Christians want to make a difference, with often a biblical or moral basis behind their stands and decisions, we must think long term. We can easily be distracted by all the things happening in our lives and in the world today.
Even seemingly good things can get in the way of living out the core essentials of our faith and sharing the Gospel of Christ. 1 Corinthians reminds us, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Circling back to the book, I think you’re wrong. (But I’m listening.), again,
When we lead with the values that inform our faith — compassion, forgiveness, and love — we enter into even the most emotionally charged discussions with a new perspective. We might not change our minds about the outcomes, but we can change our conversations by listening with openness and receptivity to those who think differently than we do.
The face of politics, our families, and our culture can be changed when Christians live what they claim they believe. Live a life worthy of emulating, free of hypocrisy.
A life that is not trying to prove their correct beliefs by shouting about it from the rooftops, but a life living out their faith in its purest form.
Instead of creating an opinion-filled cacophony, blasting it out to anyone within earshot — get involved, be the one leading change — let your faith-led actions speak for themselves.
Converse with God
When the Lord appeared to Solomon at the time of the dedication of the temple, he said,
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
While God was promising this to the children of Israel, we can still learn a lesson today.
In more modern terms, if you believe our country is full of locusts and plagues politically, you are concerned about our nation’s path and crave national reconciliation, you who are the Children of God, humble yourselves, turn from your duplicitous life of choosing your own sins, and seek God’s truth.
Have conversations with God, through prayer, about your personal life, and the concerns you have about political leaders.
The Bible crosses party lines and should make us all turn introspective and be a bit uncomfortable.
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Bet_Noire
Rebekah Drumsta’s work has been globally reaching by serving with various nonprofits and organizations. Her background is diverse including educational and online content development, event coordinating, international relations, and public speaking. Currently, Rebekah delights in being a homeschool mom and Certified Professional Life Coach. She serves as Director of PR for an international non-profit while also hosting her personal blog, www.RebekahJoy.org, which focuses on recovery after religious trauma and spiritual abuse. Rebekah holds a BA in Urban Ministry and Family Crisis with a Christian Counseling Minor, an MA in Religious Education, and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. She has made appearances on and consulted with sources including BBC, NBC, ABC, The Daily Telegraph, and a variety of other platforms.