I enjoy doing some people-watching from time to time. More than once, as I’m sitting in a public place, needing to focus on work, I’m distracted by watching how people interact with others. Mostly, they are simply going about their everyday business; however, I’ve witnessed some interesting encounters. For instance, I can recall two separate times when total strangers begin polite small talk and then as the conversation moves to a new conflicting topic, these people are now ready to pounce on each other WWE style. Can you guess the topic? Politics.
You see, we usually expect good manners and polished conversation skills when interacting with strangers; however, when we start “politicking”, the gloves can come off and we feel justified in spitting out venom. “He shouldn’t be so stupid anyway! He deserves to be yelled at!” Right in the middle of the public library or the grocery store, two people with different views and opinions go at it.
So what’s the problem here? Even though this seems to be the model given to us on news channels, nevertheless, anger and yelling is merely a symptom of the true problem. Namely, we want things to change for the better, but we cannot agree on how to make that happen. So we offer an ultimatum, “You change now! Or else…”
This is NOT a political article. I am NOT endorsing any person or party. Rather, I would like to challenge of few of the presuppositions of individuals on either side of the divide when dealing with these touchy conversations.
1. Presupposition #1: You Must Conform To Me
One of our big problems in this world is that we think that we are so smart. When you are speaking to someone with whom you disagree, what is your end goal? Do you want them to simply adopt your ideas? Are you the standard of truth?
The reality is, Biblically-speaking, all human beings are found lacking (to put it lightly). No, an individual is not the standard of truth and we shouldn’t act like we are. Especially, if you profess to be a follower of Christ, you should be pointing people away from yourself and to Him. Political ideologies are not be the standard by which we should call people to conform themselves, rather to be conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29)
2. Presupposition #2: Change Is Won Through Argument
If we take the example above of the two strangers arguing, the question is, “Do either of them really think this argument is going to change the other person?” You tell me, has anyone yelling at you ever made you think, “Hmm… they sure do make some fine points.”? Most likely not. True change only comes when there is first a change of heart and again, Biblically speaking, that only comes through the grace of God.
Many times throughout history we have seen examples of people being forced to affirm an ideology or they would suffer the consequences. What is the outcome? They may get in line for a time but they will not be truly changed. So yell, scream, make wonderfully logical arguments, but unless a heart is softened by God to receive truth you are engaged in a futile task. (John 12:39-40)
3. Presupposition #3: Better Politics Will Save Us
Sadly, some professing Christians really believe this. I don’t think many would outright say so, but the impression is given that “political wins” are equal to “Gospel wins.” Therefore, what should we be looking for in politics? A political messiah of course! One who will rid us of all those whom we politically disagree with and will usher in a “golden government”!
This is exactly what Jesus spoke against when He entered into this world. “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” (John 6:15) Why does Jesus leave these people who want to make Him king? They missed the point. Jesus pointed the people to spiritual needs and realities but instead they wanted fulfillment now. Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (John 6:27) Our country and government are not eternal and will one day perish. Do you recognize this? Politics is an unruly god to worship and will let you down. True salvation is only found in Christ.
Finally, I want you to understand I am not saying we shouldn’t have political conversations. I’m saying that we must keep our conversations in perspective. Speak and listen to those with whom you disagree. In fact, try listening more than you speak (James 1:19) and perhaps you can learn from one another. We all want to see progress for the better, but remember that true progress only comes through the grace of God working through His people. So perhaps, you can start the process by being gracious and kind in your next political conversation.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ