Maybe you’re loving this political season; maybe you can’t wait for it to be over. Maybe you’re the kind of person who cringes and hides behind the tension when politics comes up at a dinner party. Maybe you’re the person who brings it up. Maybe you’ve watched every debate. Maybe you’ve changed your TV package to catch every single one. Maybe you’ve not watched a single debate, and you’re proud of it. Maybe you’ve been barred by members of your family from watching any more debates for the safety of your family and the health of the TV. Maybe you’ve already decided who you’re going to vote for. Maybe you are mostly undecided, except that you definitely know who you’re not going to vote for.
It’s a tense time for everyone in our country, and it’s all getting a little out of control. Now, hear me well: I’m not saying you shouldn’t have an opinion. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be political. Have an opinion about anything and everything. Be active in the issues that you can speak into. Work for change. I am thankful for the people who engage in the public square and stand in the gap for all of us. I’m not asking anyone to stop. But here’s what I am saying, particularly to the followers of Jesus in the current political climate: Put your faith before your politics.
You might be saying, “Well, of course I put my faith before my politics. After all, the Bible informs my politics.” If that’s the case, then you’re not very far from believing this statement, “Well, of course God agrees with my politics.” And that is a bold statement. We can look at the stories and teachings of Jesus and conclude that Scripture supports your politics, no matter whether you are left or right. If you believe your politics are supported by Scripture, then you are dangerously close to believing God agrees with your political views. And that’s dangerously close to believing you’re God’s preferred and chosen voter.
For followers of Jesus, this is really important. The world is watching us, waiting to see how we handle such heated topics that are rife with anxiety, tension, and heated emotions. We have to get this right because so many people get this wrong. They lead people down a path where politics and faith are conflated into one thing, and then people miss Jesus as a result.
Here’s the bottom line: faith and politics are not the same thing. When faith and politics are considered synonymous, we’ve created an atmosphere that is spiritually toxic. If anybody can get this right, I believe it’s us. We know grace, mercy, salvation, we know earth is not our home, we know our citizenship is in heaven—we know all of these things. We’ve got to be the ones who get this right.
What’s the most important in all of the law? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. We can all agree on that law, but we disagree on how to live this out. So the second law gets very specific and it’s equal to the first: Love your neighbor as yourself. If you are living by the first commandment, it will be obvious by the way you treat other people. The first command is what’s happening on the inside. The second command is the evidence. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It is not self-seeking. If this doesn’t describe how we treat people, then we have placed something before our faith. It’s really that simple. If you’re not treating people well, then something else is going on in your heart.
Above all, we are called to love. You’re probably thinking, “I know what Jesus says, but that’s not the real world. The end justifies the means.” But no, never is that the case. In fact, Jesus shows us that the means is always love. We can trust God to take care of the results.
Love does not dishonor others. It is not easily angered. It’s so simple, but it’s so hard to live. When you hear someone’s political views, you’re hearing the end of the story, their opinions and conclusions based on their own experiences. Instead of listening, we find ourselves thinking, “How can you be a follower of Jesus and hold that political view?” Ultimately, we’re silently asking, “Is there an Idiot Clause in that command to love others? Surely it doesn’t apply here. Can I have permission not to love this person?” But if you knew their story, then their views might make more sense to you. In other words, when you know someone’s story, you may love them better.
Love the people around you enough to learn more of their story. Don’t paint someone in the context of their political views, but instead show that you love them more than you love your politics. Believe that the person in front of you is more than his or her political views. This is a person loved by God. Engage in the conversation, knowing that by loving people well, you’re loving God well.
Let’s love well. In kindness, let’s vote, lobby, campaign and share opinions. But put God first and put your love for people right up there with it. Put people before politics. In doing so, you will put your faith before your politics.
* * *
Tricia Lott Williford lives and writes in Denver. She attends Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colorado, and many of her articles on faith are born from the conversations and teachings of her pastor, Phil Vaughan. You can join the conversation with Southeast’s online services this weekend, and you can give God five minutes today with their simple daily reading plan.