By Tera Ertz
As I have slowly begun diving back into the world of politics, I have been struck by how very distracting and destructive typical political debate can be. It does not seem to matter who the participants are, what their political leanings tend toward or what the topic of debate is. At some point in the discourse, the conversation veers off on a tangents and I suddenly find myself embroiled in a heated exchange of insults and vitriolic diatribes. Considering the fact that the vast majority of the people I speak with are of the Christian variety, I have found this trend baffling as well as disheartening. But, God calls us to be in the world, and my particular niche in the world at large has been political for many years now. Rather than continue to withdraw from debate, as I had done for several months and as several of my friends have done recently, I decided to instead see if I could determine the cause of this aberrant behavior.
You see, I believe these folks who call themselves Christians. I cannot judge a man’s heart, so I must take at face value, at least initially, their claim of Christ as their Savior. The Bible tells us that there will be pretenders to this fellowship, and tells us how to identify and deal with those pretenders. But, it also tells us to begin by giving people the benefit of the doubt when they claim to be a member of the family of God. So, I do not and will not dispute a fellow Christian’s spiritual status in the eyes of God. This cannot stop us from addressing the very ungodly antics of so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ however. Judgment and discernment regarding a fellow believer’s behavior is always difficult for a Christian. There is that whole verse that tells us judge not lest ye be judged (Matthew 7:1), and at the core or our faith we are commanded to love our neighbor, which in today’s society often makes us feel incapable of disagreeing with or correcting them. However, there are also the verses that tell us to be steadfast in the instructions of God (2 Thessalonians 2:14-15), and the verses that tell us to correct our brothers when they stray (1 Timothy 5:20, Luke 17:3, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:13, Ezekiel 33:8, Acts 7:48-56). Biblically, it is not love to leave our fellow believers struggling to find their way out of the grasp of the pain and confusion of the sins of the world. I had to try to find a solution, rather than just throw my hands up and walk off into my own peace of mind.
Oddly enough, or perhaps not, the answer arose from examining other areas of my life. Many of the things going on in my personal life, and in my relationships these past several months have focused on the idea that I had pushed God out of the center of my thoughts and actions in dealing with my struggles and with the people I encounter every day. I found the same is true of the political debates I found myself drowning in. Everyone involved, including myself, took their eyes off the big picture, the one with God smack in the middle, and focused down on their single issue, their single opinion, and their need to not only be right, but to make everyone else understand that they were right. The more often we do that, the less we are able to articulate the foundational principles we believe in. The more we get sidetracked into the detailed minutia of this law or that policy, the less we remember why we believe what we believe, which should always be that God called us to reflect His righteousness in all that we do. This loss of focus leads to anger instead of grace, inflexibility instead of mercy, and self-righteousness instead of godly righteousness.
We as Christians are the only ones that can change the tenor of our debates with those who do not believe in God but might be persuaded to still be righteous for other reasons. We as Christians are the only ones that can change the tenor of our debates with one another when our ideas of the details are different from one another’s. To do so, we must refocus our energies in the public square foremost on being true followers of Christ. Everything else we believe flows from this one singular truth: He is the way, the truth and the life. Only once we focus on embodying His Spirit can we hope to become good leaders of men. Be blessed and be a blessing.