A well-known tenet of Christianity is summed up in what is often referred to as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s an adaptation of Matthew 7:12, where Jesus said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
And it’s probably fair to say that, generally speaking, most Christians get this right. The majority of believers—the majority of people for that matter—would not only agree that it’s correct to treat others right, but put into practice pretty well the idea of showing deference or respect or kindness.
But there’s one area of life where it seems that Christians—the people who believe in “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39)—seem to altogether forget the Golden Rule. And that’s politics.
I’m continually surprised at how many Christians take off the gloves and bare their fangs when it comes to discussing politics. In everything else it’s “be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10), but once they start talking (or tweeting or Facebooking) about politics or politicians, it’s a different story.
Many devoted followers of Christ become mean, critical, hard and bitter when politics is the topic of conversation. Insults, name-calling, bitterness, invective…nothing seems to be out of bounds. It’s as though Jesus’ injunction to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) was never spoken. If you haven’t noticed what I’m talking about, keep and eye or an ear open, and you will.
Perhaps social media is part of this. People are emboldened to write things they might never say. Or maybe, when it comes to politics, the stakes are really pretty high—politicians make decisions that affect our financial well-being, our national security and our personal safety, so perhaps it’s natural that passions run high as well.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that Christians shouldn’t have opinions on politics or that they shouldn’t express them. I’m extremely grateful to God that I live in a country where free speech is a basic human right. I’ve witnessed what the absence of free speech does to the psyche of people. I don’t want to live in the midst of that.
I’m happy that there are Christians who care about their country, the economy, health care, and that some involve themselves in the political process in the hope of helping their fellow man or woman. God bless them.
But does it have to become hateful? An opinion is one thing. “I think X is a poor President/Senator/Congresswoman/Councillor…” It’s a person’s right to feel that way. But watch how so many people cross the line from opinion to attack and insult. Some of it is brutal, hateful and malicious. Wait—did I say “some”? I should have said “a lot.” Because it happens a lot.
Watch the Twitter posts of some Christians. Listen to them start discussing Republicans or Democrats. And ask yourself if it’s possible they’ve ever read Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace.”
The real reason people become hateful when they discuss politics has to be a spiritual reason. Converted people may well make mistakes along the way, but they won’t be habitually nasty when talking about others—even politicians.
People whose lives are being led by the Holy Spirit know that in Matthew 12:34, Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” and they can’t escape the reality that one’s words betray or reveal one’s true character. (A sobering reality.)
“For by your words,” Jesus said, “you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) I don’t recall Jesus ever saying, “But when it comes to politics and politicians, feel free to let rip.”
There’s undoubtedly a way for Christians to engage in the political process and political discussions while manifesting the Spirit of Jesus. And for Christians to consistently do so—rather than consistently being mean or harsh—would be a powerful witness for Jesus and His Word.