“You are not my friend anymore!” Those words may be spoken by 6-year-old Jimmy when his friend, Jason, refuses to share a cookie with him. They are also words communicated by some folks on Facebook as they “unfriend” someone because of differing political views. Yet even when political tensions are high, as they certainly are during this 2016 election season, it is important that people who disagree with each other be able engage in civil conversation and treat each other with respect. This is something we as Christians should be able to do and model to those around us for the following reasons:
First, we know there are more important things in life than politics. As Christians, “we are citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) and our primary loyalty is to Jesus and His kingdom, rather than to any political candidate or party. I must always remember that anyone who is a believer in Jesus is my Christian brother or sister, even if he or she cheers for another football team or supports another Presidential candidate.
Second, we know relationships with family and friends ought to be able to survive political differences. The marriage of James Carville and Mary Matalin (for 23 years and counting) is a good example of how two people who disagree politically can still have a strong and loving relationship. Family and friends are something else in life more important than politics.
Third, we are called to love our political enemies. The command the Lord Jesus give us: “Love your enemies,” (Matthew 5:44) is wide enough to include people who support candidates that we do not. I am not always sure what means to love those whose opinions and beliefs I find repulsive, but I know it involves desiring good for them instead of evil. And it means I should never pray for their destruction but only their salvation.
Fourth, we cherish the Constitutional right of “freedom of speech.” Though this should be appreciated by all Americans, Christians are especially aware of the importance of not only being able to determine our own religious beliefs (freedom of conscience), but of also being able to express those beliefs (freedom of speech). When others express opinions different than ours, we should be grateful they are able to do so, knowing that the freedom to express our opinions is very much tied to their freedom to do so as well. In a speech class years ago, I gave an oration which presented political ideas opposite of what my professor held. I always remember what she told me: “Dan, I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it. And I am going to give you an ‘A’ on that speech—even though I disagreed with most of what you said.” That type of commitment to “freedom of speech” is something Christians should share.
Friends, listening to people express beliefs and ideas we don’t share can be frustrating and irritating. Yet if we keep these four things in mind, we will encourage civil discourse in the political arena and be able to have Facebook friends whose political views are very different from our own.
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church