On Tuesday night, almost 15.9 million people watched President Trump deliver his State of the Union address. In today’s world of the internet, people were not only able to watch the speech, they could discuss it in real time.
During the 78 minutes that Trump took to speak, over 68k related tweets were posted on Twitter. Of those posts, the most common used hashtags were #impeachedpresident, #pettypelosi, and #nancypelosiadisgrace. To put it in perspective, the Kansas City Chiefs, who won the Super Bowl last Sunday, were only 4th in Twitter mentions with the hashtag #chiefskingdomparade.
But the vitriol online only reflected the contempt shown between those in the House chamber on Tuesday. The night saw three democratic legislators walk out in protest, the Speaker of the House ripping Trump’s speech in half, and President Trump (arguably) refusing to shake Pelosi’s hand.
How Should Christians React?
Some American Christians react to this kind of political venom with apathy. To them, they’ve seen it all before, and they think it best to say nothing at all. Others embrace it fully. They see the world as a battlefield that must be won for Christ. They believe Christians can’t afford to pull punches in politics. Time is too short.
But where should Christians fall on this spectrum? The Bible says little about representative government. The New Testament went to oppressed subjects of an empire, not free citizens of a democracy. Just how involved should Christians be in politics? And how can Christians make a political impact without falling into the cesspool of pettiness? Here are three ways for believers to avoid petty politics:
1. See Every Politician as an Image-Bearer of God
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34-35
Imagine a man prays to God and says, “Show me yourself.” God whisks the man to the Yosemite Valley at sunset, and the man marvels at the colors and grandeur. But God says, “This is not my image.” God then takes the man beyond the Milky Way, and the man is dumbstruck by the vastness of the stars. But God says, “This is not my image.” God then takes the man to a soup kitchen, where a slow line of tired people with defeated faces wait for food, and God says, “This is my image.”
C.S. Lewis once wrote that if we were to accurately see those around us as image-bearers of God, we would be “tempted to worship them.” God created the moon and the stars, but only gave men and women His image. Not even the angels can claim that.
It’s easy to make fun of others. Especially when we disagree with them. It’s tempting to attack their wrinkly face, or smug smile, or orange skin. Social media is full of this. But God calls Christians to more than the backyard banter of political memes. This doesn’t mean Christians should be thin-skinned. It actually means they should be thick-skinned enough to treat someone kindly even if their views are unbiblical, illogical, or just plain stupid.
Politics are personal. That can’t be avoided. But next time you have a chance to “like” a post ridiculing the person instead of the politics, think of how Jesus treated political enemies. He could’ve mocked Zacchaeus for being “a wee little man.” Instead, he invited him home. The world changes when we invite people in instead of pushing them away.
2. Turn Every Complaint Against a Politician into a Prayer Request
"Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." -Philippians 2:14-15
Complaining can be deceptively fun. It becomes part of our daily banter to complain about the weather, traffic, or work. Most of us have grown numb to the conversational complaining that happens daily.
Which is why it’s easy to complain about politicians. It creates a scape-goat mentality. We feel better when, after a long day, we can say that they’re the idiots, and that everything is their fault.
Most people will never have the opportunity to run for office, so what can Christians do other than complain to combat petty politics?
They can pray.
Prayer turns a heart of frustration to a heart of thankfulness. It transforms bitterness to gratefulness, and angst to peace. With all things—not just politics, Christians should seek to pray—really pray, that God will turn what they see as bad into what He sees as good. When we choose to pray for the things we prefer to complain about, especially politics, we inherit a mind of Christ that chooses love above all things, and makes an eternal impact instead of an earthly one.
3. Look to Jesus as the True Solution to a Broken World
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." -John 14:27
It can be frustrating to read articles about love when terrible things still exist in the world. In just the time it took you to read this, five babies were aborted. By the end of the day, approximately 46 adults will be victims of homicide. These things should be taken seriously, not covered up with religious sentimentality.
But conservative values are not the Gospel. They may reflect biblical truths, but issues like pro-life and pro-marriage fails to offer what Jesus offers. Legislation of biblical values may make us feel better, but they’ll never actually make us better. Only Christ can do that.
Christians can avoid petty politics when they correctly understand the position of politics in an eternal timeline. Jesus was asked many questions in the Gospels... He never answered the political ones. He simply didn't have the time. But one question Jesus answered clearly, "What must I do to be saved?" Christians should seek to answer the same question.
People get upset because they care. No one would rip an important document in front of the whole world unless they really cared about something. Politics matter. The point is not that Christians should care about politics less. It’s that they must care about the Gospel more. Their desire to win elections must not be greater than their desire to win souls. If one side must be known for pettiness, the other side must be known for love.
Resting in Him,