Election season has been cancerous to the U.S. Body of believers. You’ve no doubt seen or engaged in political and religious discussions that have heated up to a frothy hot mess of gross generalizations and polarizations. Sides must be chosen. Votes must be cast. Vote for Christ or the antichrist.
I’m grateful for the discussion, because how candidates do or do not uphold Biblical values in their policy-making is a worthy discussion. Yet we are part of One Body, and we’re not acting like it. When we don’t like what the other person says, we get ugly. We get savage. We slice each other. But because we are One Body, we both bleed.
We have the power to interact courteously and earnestly with our brothers and sisters so that we are still brothers and sisters when Election Day is over. So before you hit “Post”:
- If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t write it on Facebook. The Internet has made us so cowardly and flippant with words. We can yell at friends and strangers in our PJs. In God’s kingdom, who are called the sons and daughters of God? The peacemakers. You know when you’re about to throw down the verbal gauntlet, hiding behind the coattails of cyberspace. Restrain yourself. James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
- Pretend you’re talking to your loved one, your best friend, or your mom. Then proceed. You wouldn’t talk to Jesus with that tone, would you?
- Presume the best. If someone voices a disagreement with me, I usually feel attacked and defensive. Most of the time, the disagreement is just that. And if I respond while presuming the best about the other person, the disagreement doesn’t escalate to all-out war.
- You cannot assess whether a person is a believer based solely on whom they vote for. You just can’t. Yesterday, I read a comment that went along the lines of, “If you had Christ in you, you would hate X like I do. Accept Christ and watch your feelings change.” Epic fail. Just because someone votes like you doesn’t mean they’re a Christian, and just because they don’t doesn’t mean they’re damned. A voting record might reflect a person’s spirituality. It is not the litmus test for salvation.
- Remember Who is in control. In John 16, Jesus was talking to His disciples shortly before they would abandon Him at His crucifixion. His advice? “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus, even when we abandoned Him, completed the work that guarantees salvation for all who believe. He won’t leave us. Ever. He has overcome the world.
- Try on the other person’s glasses first. I will always walk in an American black woman’s shoes. My lens is Christian, urban, and educationally privileged. These are both strengths and biases. We all see through different lenses, by God’s grace, so that we can learn, love, and grow. Why do we expect lock-step agreement within the Body? Before you react, consider without condescension which lenses your sister or brother may be using to view the world.
- If your heart is beating through your chest, don’t speak, and please, don’t write. You are too amped. Breathe. Step away. Head regrets off at the pass. Because…
- Sometimes, silence is wiser. Sometimes your brilliant insights are best left with your bathroom mirror. There are times when the other person just won’t hear you. Why waste your time?
- Leave room for reconciliation. Live long enough, and a person who matters to you will hurt your feelings. You will hurt someone you care about with your words. It doesn’t have to end there. Conflict creates a space for dialogue and reconciliation. It takes vulnerability and humility to keep the door open. It takes humility and vulnerability to admit doing wrong. But remember: God exalts the humble, and He is close to the contrite.
We are many members, yes, created to function and serve differently. We are diverse; we will disagree, we will have conflict, and we will have differing perspectives. We have an opportunity to display grace, forgiveness, patience, and long-suffering by the way we handle our brothers and sisters.
My prayer is that the believing community in the United States will be marked by love instead of self-inflicted scars.
Sharifa Stevens is a wife and mother, singer, and writer. She earned a B.A. from Columbia University and a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. She lives in Dallas.