This week two people stepped onto a stage hoping to leave you with positive impressions of themselves and negative impressions of the other. Let’s go ahead and #HillaryClinton and #DonaldTrump so that these observations can join in the crowd-sourced information that passes off as news these days. This year’s run for the presidency runs deep with distrust and division, and that tension erupted immediately when the lights went up and the cameras and microphones went live. This post is directed at Christians and asks the question, “How do we deal with the level of division in our country?”
My first suggestion is that we would covenant to have fruitful dialogue… always. We fail at that ideal quite a bit because we fall for the blame game where we want to stand up to our opponents (notice the adversarial label). It happened this week in the debate with Clinton saying, “I have a feeling that by the end of this evening I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened.” Trump responded, “Why not?”
This debate was low on fruitful dialogue. It was high on mechanically memorized, prepared platitudes and carefully crafted cynical criticisms. The Bible reports there are other ways.
In Acts 15, Peter, Paul and James entered the Jerusalem “stage” with vastly different ideas about what the requirements were to be labeled a Christ-follower. After fruitful discussion, they arrived at an answer – a proposed solution. At this point, you may want to warn me to keep my theology out of my politics, but according to John 3:16, God really does love this world. It kind of creates this blending of theology and politics and keeps the focus on the fact that there is only one God and Savior, and he had not labeled himself with either political party. There also can be theologically sound political policies. Hint: they will not pit people against one another with false ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ divisions.
So, here’s my theologically sound response to Christians in light of the first presidential debate:
First, Christians can model better listening, especially to those with whom they disagree. It would do us well to seek first to understand before demanding to be understood.
Second, Christians should start looking up the 300 Bible references to tell us to not be afraid. No matter who is elected it will not change who our God is and his place in the universe.
Third, Christians can be the ambassadors of Christ. That’s a political appointment from the spiritual realm to the physical one… even in election years. Each Christian should look for opportunities to listen, reason, love, share, and be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Only then will we triumph over hatred and division.
Post Script to the candidates, their surrogates and campaign teams (we did hashtag this conversation right at the beginning and I’m sure they’re still reading): feel free to take this advice, too — it was to listen more, stop fostering fear, and represent the eternal things – not holding power for ourselves, but serving and bringing glory to the One who is in control.