by Erin Bird
This past week, I read a story about a young adult guy who got blocked on Facebook by his own mother – because he shared a political post she disagreed with.
Yep, politics are that divisive.
You’ve heard the adage: “if you want to make friends, never discuss politics or religions.” And yet, many Christians, whether politically on the right or left side of the aisle, seem to think it is their mission to convince others their political opinion is the right one.
But if you follow Jesus, your goal isn’t to convince others politically. Your mission is to love like Jesus loved, live like Jesus lived, and leave behind what Jesus left behind – even online.
Following Jesus’ Example
In this series on “How to Follow Jesus Online,” we are looking at Philippians 2:12-16. Here is our key passage again:
“Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:12-16a)
In Mark chapter 12, a group of religious and political leaders confronted Jesus with a question. They were trying to drag him into a political discussion where they could trap him politically. They asked whether it was right to pay taxes to the Roman Empire. Their thinking was that if he said, “No,” they could arrest him for insurrection against the Roman government. But if he said, “Yes,” he was acknowledging the sovereignty of Rome, betraying the nation of Israel.
But Jesus, who wrote Philippians 2:14 through the Apostle Paul, refused to get dragged into the argument. He elevated the conversation by asking whose image was on the Roman denarius (a coin worth about one-days wages). The answer was known to everyone – Caesar. Then Jesus uttered his famous line: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
Here are four things we learn from Jesus’s response in this political encounter that can help us online.
1. He refused to argue.
Notice that Jesus didn’t jump into an argument. He refused to argue politics. It’s like he knew that George Bernard Shaw quote: “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” Jesus had more important things to do than wrestle pigs.
2. He stayed calm.
The text doesn’t explicitly say this, but Jesus seems quite calm in this interaction. There are other moments in the Scripture where Jesus appears frustrated, but as he talks with these hypocritical men, he seems to respond rationally.
Too often, when discussion turns political, we allow our tempers to rise, which clouds our thinking, which affects what we say, which can then ruin relationships. If you truly want to love someone like Jesus would love them, stay calm. Pray for God to help you overflow with the fruit of the Spirit as you interact online.
3. He pointed out a third way.
In America, we tend to see politics in terms of two: Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal. I think we often reduce the political arena to “two” in the American culture because we want to know clearly who won. Third options usually don’t give us a clear winner.
But for Jesus, this wasn’t about winning a political argument, it was to help his listeners realize there was something far more important. Which leads us to point three…
4. He focused on what truly matters.
Have you noticed how temporary political discussions are? During one presidential election, certain topics will be the hot button issue, then four years later those same subjects won’t even be mentioned.
And yet the gospel is for all ages. It isn’t temporary like political issues. So don’t get caught up in divisive politics that can potentially push people away from you. Keep your eyes and heart on things above. Focus on what truly matters.
Let me make a few disclaimers as I close:
- It’s okay to have political opinions.
- Political discussions don’t have to be volatile.
- You are exercising good responsibility when you vote and participate in the political process.
- It can even be a good thing when Jesus-followers run for political office.
But we have to remember that politics can only accomplish so much. As Bill Hybels says in his book Courageous Leadership, all political leaders can do is “rearrange the yard markers on the playing field of life. They can’t change a human heart. They can’t heal a wounded soul. They can’t turn hatred into love.”
True change only comes through Jesus. So don’t get overly political online. Instead, elevate your online conversations by pointing people to Jesus and what truly matters.