Honestly, as venomous as current politics have become, they can’t match some of the past. Like 1804, when the sitting Vice President of the US shot and killed the former Secretary of the Treasury. Two other founding fathers, close friends in the Revolution, became bitter enemies, slandering each other far more than we see today.
Make no mistake however, our contemporary partisanship and insults only hurt our culture. My concern transcends political positions to the tone and words that followers of Jesus often use toward those we disagree with. Colin Kaepernick provides an example. I love football, and first became aware of his unique talent in 2012, where he stepped out of obscurity to lead the SF 49ers. This mega-tatted player proclaimed his faith with Bible verses and symbols inked on his skin, and an openness to verbally support that.
Then in 2016, this player of mixed racial background took a stand by kneeling during the national anthem, igniting not his desire for a discussion on police brutality toward blacks, but a firestorm of accusations and support. Quite heated in both directions. Just as the interest waned, Nike made Kaepernick the face of its marketing campaign, and the vitriol re-erupted.
So how do Christians respond when we disagree with someone, especially a fellow lover of Jesus? Two principles can help us here, and in other arenas.
First, our primary allegiance lies not with Republicans nor Democrats, nor with America nor Canada. Before politics comes the truth that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Paul said this as a Roman citizen who often took advantage of that. He appreciated it, but valued his citizenship of heaven the most. And that leads to an application that touches us, “you are…fellow-citizens with God’s people” (Ephesians 2:19). All followers share this as fellows.
Second, another verse expands on that, from Jesus, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, NLT).
Disagreeing on a political position, particularly with a fellow believer, is far less important than demonstrating love with our words and our tone. And when we disagree with harshness and insults, people can validly wonder about the genuineness of our faith. Why? We proclaim our political agenda is more important than following Jesus as he desires.
Must we agree on all. Nope. Just the essentials. Maybe explore Ephesians 4:4-6 to think about those. But when we disagree, may people first see love in our words and our tone. For Jesus’ sake.
Kick Starting the Application
Think back to a recent Facebook thread or conversation when your words and tone got a bit heated. Did you feel love toward those who disagreed with you, or anger or resentment? Would others involved have seen it as love? In your own words, why should our words always reflect love? What can you do this week to grow in this area?