On Sunday I preached that Jesus is the One King over all things at Redemption Hill Church as we walked through Ephesians 1:15-23. There are huge implications for Christians. I also promised the church that I would post a series of points on how to honor someone with whose views you profoundly disagree. For Christians, this is not an option or suggestion, it is a call and responsibility (Rom. 13, 1 Pet. 2:13-17; 3:15-16). For so many in Redemption Hill Church, this is not a matter of theory, but a reality faced on a daily basis. From the beginning of Redemption Hill, we have presented the following as a grid to guide us in disagreement:
1. Acknowledge that office is gained by God’s decree.
The clear teaching of Romans 13 is that people in authority hold their power by the ordinance of God, though the biblical principle has been skewed in the minds of many Christians. It is too easy to begin to believe that we are the ones in real power. While it is true that there is a civic and personal responsibility to engage in the political process, it is also true that Christians believe in a God who is sovereignly involved in the world He created. Believing in God’s sovereignty will shape the tone of a Christian’s political engagement.
2. Embrace the fact that all people are created in God’s image.
Christians must stand for the inherent value and dignity of all people. This is true from the womb to the tomb, and should inform Christians in political engagement. If truly believed, it will also shape the way we engage in discussion and debate. It is important to realize that no political party has a corner on biblical values, and those who disagree with you still bear God’s image.
3. Be very careful with the language you use to criticize.
See points 1&2 above. If elected officials serve under the sovereignty and at the appointment of God, and if they are human beings who bear God’s image and likeness, then they are due to be treated with dignity and love. This will show in the language used to critique and criticize. It is possible to argue against ideological stands, legislative actions, public statements, even overt inaction while still maintaining a tone of respect. And making the jump to Hitler, will mean you have lost any audience before they can hear your more thoughtful points.
4. Be fair and objective in presenting someone else’s views.
Restating their arguments in a way with which your opponent would agree should be the starting point, the entry fee to political dialogue. In fact, Christians should work to make opposing arguments better than their opponents can. This shows a level of respect and love in understanding a person and their position. It also, frankly, sets things up for better dialogue overall.
5. Appeal to Scripture appropriately.
Too often Christians merely support themselves in arguments related to a secular government by quoting a Bible verse as if it is a recognized authority in that sphere. To simply quote a verse with the gusto of, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it” does not advance arguments or encourage dialogue. It is possible to argue for biblical and moral principles as vital to the greater good of the nation and the people who inhabit it without resorting to proof-texting arguments with references to a text that is not an assumed authority in the broader cultural context.
6. Pray for your opponents.
When the Apostle Paul commands prayer for others in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, he was not angling toward prayers of fire and damnation against people. Instead, it was for the sake of people’s salvation as they saw Christians leading a peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified life. Surely those same ideals should apply to Christians now as we engage in political dialogue, especially with those with whom we disagree.
7. Remember the place of Christians in this world.
John Piper has said, “The greatness of Christian exiles is not success but service. Whether we win or lose, we witness to the way of truth and beauty and joy. We don’t own culture, and we don’t rule it. We serve it with brokenhearted joy and longsuffering mercy, for the good of man and the glory of Jesus Christ.” Amen.
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