We find ourselves squarely in the middle of the most contentious political season in recent history, with the election just two months away and divisive rhetoric boiling over. Meanwhile, churches across the nation are struggling to maintain close fellowship amid the pandemic that has kept many away from friends and church family for months on end. And there continues to be tension, especially in cities like ours, around the issue of racial injustice.
I’m not suggesting that things have never been worse. Our nation has endured slavery, civil war, pan-demics, dust bowls and countless economic recessions, but 2020 has already featured some historic low points. And again, we’re still two months away from the election.
I raise these troubling issues to encourage us, as James says, to tame our tongues (James 3:3-12). Be careful what you say and how you say it, and be sure that when you speak, you say words that honor Jesus and spread His love. People are so easily offended these days and so quick to assume the worst of people of faith.
Guarding our tongues and watching our words applies to how we speak in public settings away from church, and it also matters within our fellowship. Unity in the church, even at Broadway where we love each so well, is a fragile treasure, and these days, with so many people feeling isolated and cut-off from usual relationships, we need to work extra hard to draw one another together rather than push each other away.
At the same time, I believe that followers of Jesus should learn to understand the world around us through the eyes of faith, including politics, economics, science and cultural trends. For the past several years, I have begun each Men’s Bible Study (now the Pastor’s Bible Study, open to men and women; Thursdays mornings at 10:30) with discussions of current events. I do this partly as an ice-breaker to get the discussion flowing before we open the Bible, but I also want to help us think through issues of the day in Christ-honoring, Biblically-faithful ways.
The point is, we don’t all have to agree on everything, but in the church, we should all agree to love each other well and to encourage one another to think, act and speak in ways that reflect well on Jesus. We can talk about politics without throwing stones. We can differ on how to manage the coronavirus situation without belittling those who think differently. We can even talk about hard issues like racism without drawing lines of division and hate.
Jesus never shied away from controversial or political topics, but He also never let himself be drawn into partisan bickering. Jesus knew how to speak the truth in love without compromising either truth or love.
So, as we head through this dicey political season, let me encourage you to make two commitments. First, take your political and moral opinions seriously enough to examine them under the lens of Biblical truth. Be sure that the positions you hold and the way you vote lines up with how you read scripture. Think carefully, with the wisdom God gives you, about the issues of our day.
Second, express your opinions for the good of society and for the glory of Jesus, not for the sake of beating a political opponent or ridiculing those on the other side. If you speak up, be sure your words promote peace and unity, moral righteousness and love of neighbor.
God will lead us through this hard year. No matter how the election turns out, God will still be sover-eign. He will protect the church and enable our faithful witness. May we do our part by speaking truth and do-ing it in love.