“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.”1 Corinthians 1:9-11
I haven’t personally heard from anyone in Chloe’s household about political divisions among Christians today, but social media has certainly been saying a lot about it lately. It’s pretty obvious that Christians are divided about politics and upcoming elections. Some of the words I’ve read might even appear to be unloving –
If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”1 John 4:20-21
This article is NOT about the political battles being fought in the United States or any other country in the world or how anyone should vote in upcoming elections. This article IS about what we can learn from Jesus Christ and His apostles that might help Christians do what pleases God in all things – including politics and elections.
What pleases God is that His children love each other and do not allow unnecessary things to divide them from one another. I say unnecessary things because there are some things that should be divisive. Christians do need to confront and even pull away from other believers at times (or those who claim to be Christians), but for specific reasons. Here are some examples –
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”Matthew 18:15-17
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”1 Corinthians 5:1-5
[Be sure to read 2 Corinthians 2 where Paul wrote about forgiving the offending brother and receiving him back into fellowship. That’s a good example for us to follow today as well.]
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”Romans 16:17-18
“But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.”Jude 17-19
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”Acts 20:29-31
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”2 Timothy 3:1-5
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”1 John 2:18-19
“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”2 John 1:9-11
As we read through 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul mentioned the divisions in that church multiple times (e.g. 1:10; 3:3; 11:18; 12:12-30; 14 – 15). There were many reasons for the divisions, but Paul called them out for being immature and sinful in their attitudes toward fellow believers –
“I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”1 Corinthians 3:2-3
There are specific reasons for Christians taking positions that divide people within churches. I hope you can see that Jesus and His apostles did command Christians to take tough stands in the areas of theology and morality. It’s part of being faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
However, our question is does dividing from another believer biblically include personal views on voting and politics?
Voting and Politics
What is voting and politics? It’s something that Christians didn’t experience during the early centuries of the Church. Christians had little if anything to say about how local and national leaders governed or were chosen to govern. When Christians did get some say in government years later, things often didn’t go well.
Doing a deep dive into the history of the Church’s involvement in government and politics centuries later shows us much about what not to do as followers of Christ. Why? Because what they did was often not in line with the clear teachings of Christ and His apostles.
Remember what Jesus told His disciples about making disciples?
“… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”Matthew 28:20a
Does that include how Christians should respond to human governments? Yes, it does.
Here are insights from two of Jesus’ apostles. First, Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome and second, Peter’s letter to the pilgrims of the Dispersion.
The Roman Church included Jews and Gentiles and was located in the capital city of the Roman Empire. Some members of the church were even part of Caesar’s household. Peter wrote to Jewish believers who lived in many parts of the Roman Empire (e.g. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia).
What did Paul and Peter tell them to do about government and politics?
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”Romans 13:1-2
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”1 Peter 2:13-17
Nero was Emperor of Rome from 54 AD – 68 AD, so he was the top governing authority Paul and Peter referred to when they wrote their letters. With that in mind, read this verse again – “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
Nero followed Claudius as emperor and Galba followed Nero. Rome had 12 emperors in just the 1st century AD. They ruled during the life of Christ on earth and the lives of the apostles. No one elected emperors. They became emperors because they succeeded through birth or other means (sometimes violent means).
Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, ascended to Heaven, sent the Holy Spirit and began building His Church while the Roman Empire had its own form of earthly kingdom building. What did Jesus say about how we respond to the demands of earthly rulers?
“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”Matthew 22:21
We pay taxes to earthly rulers, but should give our lives to God because He is our Creator and Savior.
What did Paul say about how to respond to human governments? “… be subject to the governing authorities.”
Paul added this to that statement –
“Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”Romans 13:2
What did Peter say to do? “… submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” Why? “… that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
There is a higher purpose for submitting ourselves to the laws of governing authorities on earth. It’s for the Lord’s sake. Our obedience can put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
But, you might ask, what if the government tells Christians they can’t preach the Gospel of Christ or make disciples in obedience to Christ’s command?
That’s a different situation, which is why Acts 5 is important for Christians to know and understand. These are words the Apostle Peter spoke many years before he wrote his letters –
“And the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!’ But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”Acts 5:27-32
The apostles taught the Church two ways of responding to governmental authorities: the Acts 5 way and the Romans 13 / 1 Peter 2 way. It’s important that Christians understand each way and how to respond in the way that pleases God in every situation.
We also need to understand that God is in control of EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING! That includes voting and politics. Let’s keep our focus on the race Jesus has called us to run for Him.
Following the context in chapters 13 and 14, here’s what we see –
[From NKJV outline]
- Submit to Government
- Love your Neighbor
- Put on Christ
- The Law of Liberty
- The Law of Love
If Christians today did what Paul wrote in Romans chapters 13 and 14, we’d be in much better shape. We would be more loving and kind toward each other. We would major on major things and not on minor things.
“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things … Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”Romans 14:1, 4
If voting and politics are giving you heartburn right now, I highly recommend you read Romans chapters 13 and 14 and think seriously about what you see there. Pray after you read it and see what God shows you.
I understand the issues in our current election. I was a career journalist and covered hundreds of elections during four decades of news coverage. Many important things can be at stake in elections, but what concerns me is how Christians are being pulled away from what Jesus has commanded us to do. Christians often get bogged down with temporal issues instead of that which is eternal.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, wants us to focus on what’s eternal. That’s clear from His own words in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation, His actions while on earth, and the words and actions of His apostles.
So, look at each aspect of a political campaign and determine for yourself what you believe is eternal and what you believe is temporal. Once you’ve done that, invest yourself in what is eternal.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”Matthew 28:18-20
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:8
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”2 Timothy 2:3-4
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.2 Timothy 4:2-3
When you talk with other Christians in person or on social media, invest in what’s eternal. When you talk with unbelievers in person or on social media, invest in what’s eternal. Don’t get pulled into “disputes over doubtful things.”
How can I know what’s eternal and what’s temporal? Read the Bible. Jesus and His disciples have made the differences abundantly clear. Don’t let the ‘world, the flesh and the devil’ confuse you about what Jesus has called you to do for Him and what the Holy Spirit has gifted you to do for the glory of God.
Satan is a deceiver and a divider. He loves to cause trouble among Christians. That’s why God warned His children about Satan’s devices. We are not to allow Satan to deceive us or divide us. Don’t allow Satan to do that to you this election season or at any time for that matter.
What do you think we’ll be talking about in Heaven? Voting? Politics? Elections? Or other things that concern that which is eternal? Once Jesus has judged every human being who ever lived, including the “small and great” (Revelation 20:12), and we step into the future God has for His people, will we refer to the election of 2020? Will we discuss our political affiliations during our life on earth? Or will we talk about loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength; loving our neighbor as ourself; and loving one another as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.
When we know the answer to those questions, we’ll know what to do when the subject of politics or elections comes up again.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.