Edifying Language in an Election Year

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.   1 Corinthians 1.10

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.    Philippians 1.27

I . . . urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4.1-3

 

I don’t envy people who live in swing states. 

Silvia and I lived in New Mexico for seven years, through a series of national election cycles.  In 2004, the robo-calls and massive campaign mail volume was a shock.  In 2008, we stopped watching any television, ceased listening to the radio, and screened every call.  The barrage of political messages, mostly pointedly negative, was stunning. 

Vigorous partisan rhetoric, in part, expresses American liberty in action.  We thank God for the freedom we possess to say much of what we want as much as we want about people and ideas. 

But that does not mean we have to like it.  Or choose to listen to it.  Or elect to participate in it.

I am concerned that, at times, Christians can be caught up in the heat of the rhetoric.  I am concerned that the loud volume and cutting sharpness in the culture war can enter into the life of the congregation and her members and do harm.   

The Church has a spotty history of working through disagreements great and small.

During the Great Schism between the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, the leaders of both churches excommunicated one another.  In essence, they declared that the other and the churches they led were going to hell.  Likewise, during the Protestant Reformation, Christian made war on Christian for over a century.  And in Texas alone, thousands of churches of all denominations have split up over various issues of doctrine, practice, and personality. 

Not our best moments.

The respective letters to congregations in Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi are instructive.  Paul’s appeal for unity of mind and Spirit is likely in response to a lack of it in those congregations.

He encourages them to walk in manner worthy of Christ.  He challenges them to love one another demonstrably.  He lists hatred, discord, fits of rage, dissensions, and factions among destructive ‘sins of the flesh’.  The apostle challenges the Church to pursue the fruit of the Holy Spirit, including love, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, and gentleness (Galatians 5.19-23).

Does that mean we all have to cheer for the Cowboys?  No. 

Does it mean we cannot voice disagreement about public policy, tax rates, or doctrine?  Of course not.

But God desires for the saints to bear the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2.14).  We can and will disagree about health care policy.  But we must agree to reflect Christ in the manner we express our opinions.  Our words must bear witness to Him.  Our volume must bring glory and honor to Him.  Or we risk distracting people from the message of the Gospel.     

As we approach the heart of election season this fall, we would do well to walk and speak in a manner worthy of Christ.

In the midst of the yelling, God calls us “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3.2).

Choose to disagree agreeably.  You will be a credit to your King.

 

The Rev. David Luckenbach

Christ Church, Tyler

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