As we enter into a time of “post-election,” I’m finding people are still doing a lot of talking (mainly through social media) about the election and politics. Which seems understandable. There’s been a lot of emotional investment put into the 2020 vote.
Constructive political discourse is vital for the well-being of our country. Trading ideas and insights can make us better. As iron sharpens iron, we too can grow through productive dialogue. To do this well, we must be willing to listen to various viewpoints unique from our own. If we are a good listener, we improve the odds of someone listening to us.
It’s also important that, as citizens who share the same national identity, we seek to offer others a measure of respect – even toward those with whom we strongly disagree.
Yet for some, the idea of communicating constructively or respectfully can seem too challenging to achieve. Instead of engaging others in a mature, measured manner, some of us can’t resist the urge to mock, flame or slander someone we view as an opponent. Simply put, political passion ends up circumventing common courtesy.
As Jesus’ followers, I believe that in this season of heightened tensions, it’s important to try to think before we decide to speak (or type).
Why? Two reasons:
- The danger of wounding others
The Bible often talks about the destructive potential that lurks within the tongue. James put it this way:
So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. (James 1:5-9)
It’s one thing to exchange ideas. It’s another thing to use our words in order to insult or injure a fellow human being. If we can’t make our point without maligning or reviling our listener, we probably need to work on our conversational skills.
2. The peril of losing our witness
Politics has an important place in our society, but pales in comparison to the vital, timeless message of the Gospel. More than hearing our thoughts about the current political climate, our friends, families and neighbors need to both hear and see the Gospel on display in our lives.
This doesn’t mean we ought never discuss politics. It just means we should be extremely thoughtful about how we go about it.
The Bible is brimming with advice about how to best use our words. For example:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The Bible says we are Jesus’ ambassadors. In other words, we are his Gospel representatives to the world. Our job is to do all we can to help people see Jesus clearly. But if we are caustic or injurious in our political discourse, we run the risk of offending people rather than drawing them closer to Christ.
Perhaps the best measuring tool to help us gauge the healthiness of our political interactions is found in Galatians 5:22-23, which offers us a description of the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.
If we run our words through the grid of this verse, we won’t have to worry about inflicting wounds or obscuring our witness.