Christian Unity and the 2016 Presidential Election on this edition of Truth in Love.
We are getting very close. Americans will soon go to the polls to cast their ballot for the President of the United States. This has engendered a lot of conversation as American politics always does in general and as presidential elections always do in particular. But my concern on the podcast this week is not first who Americans would elect to be their next president. My concern this week is whether Christians can love one another well when the election is over.
The difficulty with Christian unity has to do with the campaign of Donald J. Trump. There have been very few issues in my life that I have seen cause so much division and public strife among Christians of all stripes. And there has never in my lifetime been so much division among Christians around a presidential campaign. But the candidacy of Donald Trump has created a massive amount of division. That line of division is drawn between Christians who say they will never vote for Trump and Christians who say must vote for Trump if we are to be faithful Christians in the world and faithful Christians in the process of American national politics. That dividing line and the positions on either side of it is creating massive problems.
I am personally aware of Christians on church staffs that are divided by this issue and I’ve seen conflict among their pastoral team on this issue. I am very aware of families who are experiencing disagreement. You have Christian family members who say you can never vote for Trump and Christian family members who say that you have to vote for Trump. And all of us have seen the public disagreement among Christians on this issue.
Just this week I read an article published by a Christian who was excoriating his brother in Christ who is a person committed to never voting for Trump. I also read an article by another Christian who excoriated a Christian who is committed to voting for Trump. We have these Christians who are each committed to their own position and their own logic and they are publically ripping one another to shreds so whether the disagreements or the disunity are happening in the context of churches, families who have Christians in them, or whether the disagreements are very public in nature, online and on television, this is a problem.
It is particularly a problem when you consider the teaching of Jesus in John 13:35 that says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” The text doesn’t say that all men know we are Jesus’s disciples by how we vote. It says all men know we are Jesus’s disciples when we love one another. And so what I want to do on the podcast today is just talk about some biblical ways that Christians can think so that we can love one another even as we make different electoral decisions. And there are a couple of guiding principles biblically that I want us to think about. One of them is Romans 14:23 and that is a well-known text of Scripture that says, “Anything not from faith is sin.” It is a text that talks of the importance of the Christian conscience.
In the context of Romans 14 the Apostle Paul is making the argument that you are not allowed to do something as a Christian even if the thing that you’re considering is not wrong objectively, you’re not allowed to do it if you think it’s wrong. If you do it if you think its wrong even if the activity is fine you intend to cross your conscience and that makes it wrong. Your intention is not to honor the Lord and that makes it a sin. And so we have here the importance of the Christian conscience. And we are going to have to learn to honor and respect Christians whose consciences are informed by different criteria. Let’s talk about the people who are never going to vote for Donald Trump.
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are never going to vote for Donald Trump because of his moral failings. They are concerned about his business practice, involvement in casino gambling, they are concerned about charges of racism, they are concerned about his history of womanizing and adultery. They’re concerned about his behavior and his language that is sexually predatory. They are never going to vote for him because of those moral failings. They don’t believe that you have to be perfect to be the president of the United States. They are not claiming that they themselves are perfect. But in good conscience they believe that there are some moral failings that are disqualifying and they believe Donald Trump has those disqualifying moral failings. They cannot in good conscience vote for the man.
Now there are those who think we have to vote for Donald Trump that respond to those people who are never going to vote for him and they say we are not thinking about the Supreme Court. You are not thinking about the fact that Hillary Clinton, if elected, could get one, two, three, or four appointments to the Supreme Court and would install very pro-abortion justices on the Supreme Court for a generation. They say if you do that you’re not thinking about the unchecked liberalism that our country would descend into if Hillary Clinton were elected. Sometimes those concerned get expressed as accusations, “You don’t care about the Supreme Court,” or “You don’t care about the liberalism of Hillary Clinton and her lack of regard for religious liberty.”
I want to say very clearly that accusations like that are unkind, unloving, and unfair. As Christians we should not accuse other Christians who have a conscience that is informed by a desire to honor Christian morality. We should not make such unfounded accusations. As a matter of fact, every single person I know, and I know a lot of Christians who say, they will never vote for Donald Trump their heart breaks about the issue of the Supreme Court, their heart breaks about the religious liberty concerns and the other issues such as the unchecked liberalism of Hillary Clinton. But they don’t believe they can cross their conscience and vote for a man that they believe is disqualified. They’re not going to vote for Clinton either but they don’t believe they can vote for him.
Our response to this as Christians should not be a mathematical argument that if you don’t vote for Trump then that’s a vote for Hillary. It should be a biblical response standing on Romans 13:23 where we honor the fact that people have consciences and they should not cross them. That’s the people who are never going to vote for Donald Trump. And then we have brothers and sisters in Christ who say that you must vote for Donald Trump. And they make the arguments that I just indicated. They say, “Hey, the Supreme Court is crucial. We need justices on the Supreme Court who are not going to be committed to outcome based law who are going to be committed to a strict constructionist understanding of the constitution and who are going to work to defend religious liberty.”
Now, there are some people on the never Trump side who listen to that argument and they make accusations against those folks who say you have to vote for Donald Trump. And they say, “Well, you don’t care about character.” Or they say, “You’re a hypocrite because you condemned, for example, Bill Clinton in the 1990s and so now you’re giving a pass on this moral conduct.” I know a ton of Christians who say we have to vote for Donald Trump. And I don’t know one of them who has complete and total disregard for all of the moral concerns in the man’s life. That is not it at all. Instead, they’re making this painful choice and they’re saying, “Given the fact that we have two options, we don’t have a third option, we’ve got to pick the least bad option.” And in good conscience they’re doing what they think is right.
Accusations that our brothers in Christ who are trying to make a tortured decision that they don’t care about character those accusations are unkind, unloving, and unfair. And brothers and sisters in Christ ought not to speak about others trying to make reasonable arguments in a painful situation. Instead of being unkind, unloving, and unfair we need to honor the conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ and move forward together. And that gets us to the next text that I want to talk about and that is Ephesians 4:3, it says that, “As Christians we should be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.” It says that for Christians, unity is something that we should be diligent to uphold. This means that our charge as Christians is not primarily electoral and political. But our first priority as Christians is to the unity in the body of Christ.
I want to say very honestly and from my heart that I think it is shameful for Christians to lose their witness of love for one another over two politicians. And I just want to say, the path forward on this is if you are a person who says you can never vote for Donald Trump because of his moral failings, God bless you. You have a reasonable argument, your conscience is informed by the Word of God, and as Christians we should be thankful for you. And if you are somebody who says we have to vote for Donald Trump and you have spoken in an insulting way about someone who in good conscience cannot do that then you should confess your sins to that person, and if you’ve done it publicly then you should confess your sin publicly, and ask for forgiveness. And if you are a person who says we have to vote for Donald Trump then I want to say, God bless you, and as Christians we should be thankful for you. You have a conscience that is biblically informed and you care about things that matter. And if there are folks who can never vote for Donald Trump who have looked at those people and accused them in any kind of unkind, unfair, and unloving way then you should confess that sin and ask for forgiveness.
After we’ve pursued any kind of reconciliation that needs to happen we need to learn how to talk about this in a better way. We need to learn to listen to one another well we need to learn to love one another to think the best of one another and at the end of the conversation instead of making accusations like, “You don’t care about the Supreme Court,” or “You don’t care about morality.” Instead of making those kinds of accusations against people who have a good biblical point we can say something like this, “Before God I cannot go with you down that road. Before God I think we have to vote for Donald Trump even though he is an immoral man.” Or “Before God, I just can’t vote for Donald Trump because I can’t sign on to that kind of immorality. Before God that’s my choice but I understand and I appreciate where you’re coming from. You have a good biblical point and I’m thankful for you and I’m going to pray for you.” Those are the ways that Christians should talk with one another.
How embarrassing to have news reports in the national media reporting the division that exists among Christians. The reality is that whoever gets elected as the next president of the United States next week after that we will all still be waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ to redeem us from all sin and give us eternal hope. Let’s be sure that we can love one another well while we wait for his return.
This was an edited transcript from a recent Truth in Love Podcast. Many of the questions that we answered on the podcast today come from you. We love to answer your questions and we want to invite you to send them in. You can email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can tweet them at us using our twitter handle @ACBCand the #truthandlove.