Much like Christmas, election season shouldn’t really even be a thing. It can start to feel like a drawn-out commercialized greed-fest full of noisy ads and mailings and hype, and by the time the day arrives, you collapse in exhaustion and wonder what’s so great about it in the first place. (And with elections, you don’t even get cookies.)
Granted. I’m with you 100%. But since we’re stuck with another three months of this, we might as well give a little thought to how we should live in the middle of it.
I am not God, so I can’t say for sure, but I think it is very, very likely that God cares more about how you talk about politics in the months leading up to this election than who you actually vote for. Why do I say this?
Because A. God cares about your heart, and what you say comes out of your heart B. the one standout characteristic of Jesus’ followers is supposed to be our love for each other and C. the object of our lives is to bring glory to Christ, and how we behave in front of a watching world says more about who God is than a hole we punch in a voting booth.
Here are some thoughts on applying “What Would Jesus Do?” not to your vote, but to your life in the meantime.
Even if someone else does not. You can’t control their words or reactions, only yours.
I sometimes think of myself as a hostage negotiator when entering controversial real-life or online exchanges. Civility is being held captive, and I have to talk the hostiles down by convincing them to free common decency. For truth, justice, and a more gracious society! [Theme music here.]
This is not normal and may not work for you if you don’t subscribe to my particular brand of melodrama. But the point is, showing grace is hard. I fail at it all the time, because the way I act doesn’t line up with the things I say I love.
In theory, I love truth. In reality, I love being right.
In theory, I love peace. In reality, I love avoiding necessary confrontation because people might not like me anymore.
In theory, I love graciousness. In reality, sometimes, I love manipulation. (Even the hostage negotiator mentality can lead me to pride. “Look how good I am at calming everyone down and getting them to agree with me! Bwahahaha! I could take over the world any day now.”)
Yikes. That looks so ugly, written out there, but it’s true. Maybe you can relate.
If you know your weaknesses, check your attitudes, and pray over your responses (and never write or speak them when angry), I can guarantee your conversations will be a better reflection of Christ.
Beware the echo chamber.
Today, we can hand-select the voices we listen to, from talk radio, to broadcast and print media, to online chatter, muting and scrolling and de-friending until a lot of times, the information we take in is from a bias that matches our own.
So if you have a friend (real or the Facebook sort) who is vocal about positions different than yours, instead of feeling defensive, and speaking or commenting from that stance, first be appreciative. This is a rare and interesting chance to understand and empathize with fellow human beings who come to totally different conclusions than you! Sometimes I think I should make a Worldview Bingo card so that people get excited about finding and interacting with perspectives other than your own.
By “interacting,” I don’t mean affirming everything people say. You’re free to disagree, even debate (although I find that’s best done in person than in the virtual world). But remembering the “show grace” point above. Don’t be afraid of new ideas, and don’t be afraid to challenge the ones you hold, or at least try to understand the other side.
Don’t be offensive.
Jesus said the gospel would be offensive, and it is. That is not what I’m talking about here.
We are representatives of Christ, and we have to balance the difficult truths that Christ could be sarcastic and harsh at times when critiquing the religious leaders of his day (not the pagan Romans, interestingly) and that Christ was completely loving and gracious all the time. Being omniscient, he knew exactly what people needed to hear and how to present it, and he was incapable of making an unloving choice.
Christians are not Christ. This means we need to give careful thought to what it looks like to speak the truth in love because it is not our default.
Let’s get uncomfortably specific. I forget and do these things often, but I still think they’re worth saying. First, don’t call names. Think before you say, “anyone who believes X is delusional” or “only idiots would vote for Y.” There is almost always a more respectful way to express your view, and one that might actually lead someone who disagrees with you to consider it.
And second, be really careful with humor. Remember: the purpose of these conversations is not drawing attention to how witty you are. (This is a big one for me. I love people thinking I’m clever and am prone to unnecessary overstatement to get a laugh…but often at a cost of being gracious others.)
Don’t be offended.
From personal slights to trigger warnings to overblown Internet witch hunts against misinterpreted offhanded comments, we are in the most easily offended generation of all time.
I’m gonna say it straight out: if you are a follower of Jesus, you should sacrifice your right to be offended. Every day.
I don’t care if we’re talking a petty annoyance or a sucker-punch insult to your character. You can choose to not take offense and respond in anger. It’s what we’re called to do. Not to raise the stakes or anything, but Jesus stood there while people mocked and spit on him while he was stripped naked and bleeding…and he forgave those people.
Practically, Romans 12:17-18 sums it up:
Breaking that down: Don’t respond in kind if someone is being a jerk. Think about—actually take time to carefully consider—how what you say might be interpreted by others. Do everything you can to live at peace with others, not just the bare minimum…and realize that not everything depends on you and sometimes you will not be able to live at peace with everyone.
The world doesn’t need more rants, more overreactions, more name-calling, more reinforcement of the ideas we have always held and will always hold.
The world needs more grace, and Christians are in a unique position to show it during this controversial election. We need to listen and love more and realize that we can still be committed to the truth of the gospel as we do so. As believers, we should bring peace to a chaotic world instead of adding to the noise.