Whenever you write something that mentions anything political there is a risk people will not hear what you are trying to say. By nature, politics and elections are divisive, often leading to division and disunity. This past election season has been no different.
Today in America we are more divided than ever – and this started way before the election. The tragedy of this election season is not the outcome, whether you agree or disagree with the results. The tragedy is what this election has done to those who belong to the body of Christ. To be blunt and honest, we have behaved no differently than those who don’t know Jesus. This is the real tragedy. This is what breaks my heart and more importantly I am sure it breaks God’s heart.
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What Is at Stake?
Do you realize how many Christians (and that is who I am talking to today) have argued, have fought, have insulted and shamed each other, and have stopped speaking to each other because of their politics and the election? The problem with this is not who is right and who is wrong. The problem is what it does to the name of Jesus and the message of the Gospel.
If you remember when Jesus was nearing the end of his life and about to face crucifixion, he prayed a wonderful yet very interesting prayer regarding his church.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).
When Jesus was praying that prayer, he was focusing on those who weren’t believers yet but who would become believers later. That includes you, me and the church as a whole. His desire in prayer was that those who profess Jesus would be one. This doesn’t mean we would agree on everything, but even where there may be disagreement there would still remain unity. Clearly this has not happened. The question therefore remains how do we fix this? (No the answer is not everyone just needs to see things your way.) More important than how we fix this is why we need to. Consider the end of verse 21,
“… so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
This is what’s at stake. That is why this division cannot continue within the body of Christ, because the world is watching.
Do you realize that the way you and I treat each other is the greatest testimony to the world of who Jesus is? When there is division and disunity it weakens the message of the Gospel that we proclaim. People can’t hear the message of the Gospel because we have blinded them by our words and our actions. This should never be. That is why the issue of unity in the body of Christ is very serious business. We must fight for it and it must begin now. The message of the Gospel is at stake. To address the issue, I want to offer you five things the church must do to bring post-election unity.
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1. Recognize God’s Sovereignty
“He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars” (Daniel 2:21).
This verse talks about the sovereignty of God. Sovereign simply means that God is in control and has ultimate authority to will and do as he pleases. Another way of thinking about it is that everything happens as God wills it to happen. He uses the course of world events to accomplish his purpose in the earth. In a political sense this means that whoever ends up in the White House every four years is there because that is who God wants there. Remember, according to Daniel he is the one who removes presidents and sets up other presidents.
It cannot be that when someone you agree with is in office, then God is sovereign, but if someone you don’t agree with is in office the devil is at work. If that is the case, then God is no longer sovereign. God is either sovereign all the time or he is not sovereign at all. Using recent history here is what that means.
When Clinton became president…God was sovereign.
When Bush became president…God was sovereign.
When Obama became president…God was sovereign.
When Trump became president…God was sovereign.
When Biden became president-elect…God was sovereign.
I know many people are still struggling with that last line but remember if God is sovereign it cannot be just when you like or agree with the outcome. Either God is sovereign all the time controlling the course of world events as the Bible says or God is not sovereign at all. Unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways.
The reason understanding God’s sovereignty is an important step to unity is because it shifts the focus back to who is really in control. When you acknowledge God is in control, your viewpoint shifts from who is in office to who is on the throne. Focusing on who is on the throne will help you deal with whoever is in office. When you come to grips with God’s sovereignty you will begin to see elections not in terms of who won or loss, but what is God’s purpose in it all.
If the body of Christ is ever going to become one we must get to the place that we trust God’s plan whether we understand it or not. Doing this lowers the temperature and brings peace of mind because regardless of who is in office, God is still in control.
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2. Remember the Mission
I am always amazed how we in the church forget what our primary mission is. Here are four things Jesus said to help you remember.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’” (Mark 16:15).
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Let me sum up these four things:
1. Be salt and light
2. Preach the gospel
3. Make disciples
4. Wait for power from the Holy Spirit so you can do 1, 2, and 3.
I know this might seem overly simplistic but that is by design because this is the mission. At the end of the day, we have to get back on mission, which ultimately is wrapped around the gospel.
Now this does not mean that you don’t address the issues of the society – that’s why you are salt and light. Salt preserves the way and light points the way. God has called us, those who are Christians, to be the moral compass for our society. We are supposed to be the ones that preserve morality in the society. The purpose of this is so that we can bring attention to who Jesus is and by our example win some to him.
This is the mission. Let’s not forget it.
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3. Be Humble Enough to Listen
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
The truth is there are many reasons why a person chose to vote the way they did. Coming to a place of unity means trying to understand someone else’s position. When you begin a conversation with “How could you have voted for…” or “If you cast your vote for the other side God is coming for you,” these are not statements of understanding but statements of judgment. This type of thinking will not create and bring unity because you immediately put someone in a defensive position.
If there is going to be unity we must be willing to listen and understand without casting judgment. There are people in the church whose situations and realities are quite different than yours. These situations and realities impact how they vote. By the way if these people are not a part of your church or your circle that is part of the problem.
If we all follow James’ command and really be quick to listen, slow to speak or become angry, then we will take giant leaps forward in bringing unity into the church.
4. Realize There Are Other Issues That Matter Too
What I am about to say may be shocking to some of you, but there are many moral issues to deal with in our society. I know abortion and marriage seem to get the most attention, but they are not the only ones.
In Matthew 23 Jesus told the Pharisees something interesting.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).
Jesus was not disparaging them for tithing, he was calling them out for not addressing some of the other issues. If we are going to be the church and really bring unity, we must recognize that as important as abortion and marriage are there are other issues that are just as important. This doesn’t mean we don’t fight for abortion or marriage; it means we do that while not neglecting the other issues.
You must also recognize that many of these other issues are what led your brothers and sisters in Christ to have different political views and to vote differently than you. This does not make them right and you wrong, or you right and them wrong. It simply means that for some reason, which is right and reasonable to them, they have a different point of view. That difference cannot become a standard of judgment.
A person who voted Republican is no more or less a Christian than one who voted Democrat. Neither is someone who voted Democrat more or less a Christian than someone who voted Republican. The last time I checked, how you vote in an election or your political party affiliation does not determine your Christianity. What you believe about Jesus does.
Here is the question. Will you allow yourself to see those with different political views with grace? If yes, then unity is possible. If not, then the church will remain divided. Remember the words of Paul.
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5. Remember the Mandate to Love
“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
When you read these verses, not only are we commanded to love each other but John takes it a step further. Loving each other is proof that we love God. In other words, if you don’t love your brother or sister, you cannot love God. That is a big ouch, but it also removes the excuses. We simply must get back to loving each other. In case you forgot here are the characteristics of love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
If you want to be honest, this is not the type of love we have demonstrated towards each other. Had we been more patient, kind, humble, honoring others, and not easily angered, there would be none of the divisiveness that we have seen and in some cases been a participant in. The bottom line is we must get back to loving each other like this because this is what God desires.
Displaying Godly Character
I hope you have heard my heart in the words of this article. Even though there is a political framework in this article, this is not political at all. This is a call to displaying Godly character to a world that sorely needs to see it.
I also want you to remember the main reason why unity is so important. The Gospel is at stake. If you really love God and desire to see the message of the Gospel go forth then you should be willing to lay aside all division and divisiveness for the sake of the Gospel. Let it be that we all do our Heavenly Father proud by loving each other and seeking to becoming one in Christ. As I said before the world is watching and more importantly God’s name and honor is at stake.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.