When should a Christian speak up and when should they shut up?
At the time of this writing it is just a few days away from Thanksgiving. It’s a time of year we get to spend time with our family, be thankful, and argue meaningless politics over a family meal. Whether it is at the dinner table or on social media, our culture is full of political opinions and division.
As a Christian how do we balance Romans 12:18 which says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone,” with our great desire to tell everyone we know our great wisdom on who to vote for that will save the country?
My friends and family are like yours; they are passionate about political issues. As a pastor I often wrestle with when to speak up and when to shut up. I am a person who speaks more than I listen. This can get me in trouble.
The older (and hopefully wiser) I get the more I keep my mouth (and social media account) shut when it comes to political opinions. There are no lack of pastors and spiritual leaders speaking into politics. Some even run for office themselves.
Jesus told His followers how to live but that is not the same as telling a nation how to govern. The disciples of Jesus and the crowds on multiple occasions tried to make Jesus their political leader (king). He would have none of it. He clearly showed the path to have, ‘God’s Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is In Heaven’ was not through any political means. It would be through His disciples living differently and sharing the gospel that would be the change agent in the world. Christians would not take up arms but lay down their lives as sheep to the slaughter.
Here are a few things I am learning from watching years of endless political debate on TV, online and in person.
Political debates/arguments are almost never helpful and almost always cause further division.
Whether you believe the President is an orange buffoon or if you believe that Hillary Clinton should be locked up, or both, telling everyone probably will change no ones mind. I know that when I put something on social media I have many friends with many different political beliefs. I don’t want to risk a greater wedge between a potential friend and myself over a fruitless argument. I would rather be a bridge builder than a wedge driver. The gospel of Jesus is by its very nature offensive. The gospel reveals our sin in order to give us the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus. Politics just divide and hurt. I see it everyday online from all parties.
Jesus chose to stay out of explicitly political arguments and this is a great principle for me to follow.
Jesus always spoke spiritual truth. When He would address spiritual issues of the day it would often bleed over into addressing the political issues of the day. He could not have been clearer about the fact that His kingdom was not of this world. Ours should not be either.
Both Parties have flawed platforms
The fear of elevating a party and arguing its points is that you can become part of group thinking that never opposes your party. I often disagree with policies and people on both sides of the aisle. As a Christian, you should too.
My job is to speak Biblical truth and when that spills over then it spills over but it should not be my aim to get tied up in political arguments.
If someone really cares about my opinion about a political matter then they will ask me. If they ask me I will tell them. For a Christian the goal of life is not to support an elephant or donkey. We have allegiance to a Lamb. We lay down our lives so that others may know Him. My political leaning could be a stumbling block for people knowing Jesus. I don’t want to be a stumbling block.
A few guiding questions:
Is speaking about politics your calling?
God specifically calls out people to speak to certain issues. If this is you, then go for it, but this is not most of us.
Is this helpful?
Is what you’re about to say going to help anyone or is it just sharing your opinion?
Did you take a day to think about the repercussions?
Most of the time when share something that offends or “triggers” others it is because we did it in hast. Whatever you share on the Internet is forever…even if you delete it. Screenshots can be made of whatever you post and can come back to hurt you later. If you think your post might cause unnecessary division then take a night to think and pray about whether to say or post it.
Does your spouse think you should say/post it?
My wife is great at telling me what is and what is not helpful…if I would just listen to her.
Will this drive an unnecessary wedge between you and your friends and family?
Will people you love lose respect for you because of your engagement in this discourse?
One of the hardest things about the last Presidential cycle was how many spiritual heroes I lost great respect for because of how they voiced their political opinions. In my eyes many of those leaders showed blatant hypocrisy in their politics. These are leaders that I now no longer look up to as I once did. I do not want what I think politically to make me lose spiritual influence with someone who may look up to me.
When it boils down to it the Thumper rule is always a powerful rule. You remember Thumper from the movie Bambi. His mother told him, “Thumper, if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.” If we all lived by the Thumper rule oh how different our world might be.
So for the most part, I will simply keep my mouth shut about things political. I will speak for life and I will speak for issues, but I will try to stay above the drama and hurt. There is a wise Proverb from the Bible that can really help when it comes to this area of life.
Proverbs 17:27-28 “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
After looking at everything, if you are still unsure whether you should speak up or not…it is probably best to just keep it to yourself.