Author, researcher and pastor Ed Stetzer is calling for Christians who became divided over the contentious 2016 election to come together and heal the “deep wounds” that continue to metastasize as a result of the political fallout.
“The 2016 American presidential election divided the nation and many churches in a way that is unprecedented,” Stetzer wrote in a Christianity Today post published on Wednesday. “It may seem like a long time ago, but the effects linger, often continuing to cause deeper wounds than we know.”
Despite rampant polarization, Stetzer said he’s hoping to see the church unite — and he’s offering up a convicting message in reminding us all that nonbelievers are watching as Christians continue to battle it out over differing political ideologies.
Stetzer worries that a failure to mend relationships will deeply damage Christians’ witness.
“The world is watching, and they were pelted by the mud we threw. They saw us ostracize people who voted for ‘the other guy,'” he wrote. “They heard us call people ‘Satanic.’Now that it is over, we must learn from the chaos and mend relationships.”
Stetzer continued, “Leave the political rhetoric to the political operatives.”
His point? The church’s aim is spiritual and not political and the former mission should take precedence over anything else. Rather than argue over political issues, he said the focus should be on Jesus. And he encouraged pastors and Christians, alike, to assess how they’ve been behaving and to make necessary changes.
“If you have allowed election speech to replace the speech of the ‘elect,’ repent now,” he wrote. “It’s not too late to shake off the dust of 2016 and get back on point.”
Stetzer implored Christians to stop painting their brothers and sisters in the faith with such a broad brush, arguing that people vote for many different reasons and that labeling them simply based on their choice at the polls is non-sensical.
“Your Sunday School teacher is not a default racist because she voted for Trump,” he said. “Your children’s worker is not a default abortion promoted because he voted for Hillary.”
Here are the 4 areas he suggests to do some honest soul searching, and see if you are violating them or faithfully engaging in them:
Leave the political rhetoric to the political operatives.
In the field of politics, there might be a space for rhetoric and characterizations, but this is not so in the Church.
We aren’t here to bully people into our way of thinking with insincere speech. We offer Christ, mercy, love, peace, and truth. There is little to no room for these elements in American politics, and we must not be willing to leave them at the door because we want to join the fray. There is a Savior, and there is an enemy. And neither of these are named Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Don’t use your pulpit to push policy
We as Christian leaders should have a compassionate approach to the unborn, immigration, and other social issues. These things are dealt with in scripture, but they are not always as simplistic as we like to make them. The same Bible that commands us to care for the least of these also tells us that if a man refuses to work, he should not eat. It takes care to bring clarity, and sound bites typically don’t cut it.
Quit painting your brothers and sisters in Christ with a broad brush
Would you want people to tag you with the lowest elements of the person for whom you voted? Do you want people to say you mistreat women just because you voted for Trump? Do you want people to accuse you of being a communist because you voted for Sanders? It is simply not fair, or to use a biblical word, it is simply not just to apply labels to our brothers and sisters that do not apply. It is not a stretch to say that doing so is a classic case of false accusation.
Be truth sharers
Let me be clear: There is absolutely no excuse for Christians to bear false witness. And when you share a link that has a ridiculous and damaging story without verifying that it is true, you’ve broken one of the commandments. Not only is this unhelpful in the political arena, but it puts a stain on the Church.
Gossip is wrong. Lying is wrong. Slander is wrong. It is wrong when you participate with someone you know, and when you participate with a presidential candidate. Stick to the truth. We have enough good truth to share that we don’t need to muddy it up with lies, even if they will make the other side look worse.
If your reputation has taken a hit because you were slinging mud, repent and wash your hands so you can be a clean vessel for God to use.
Stetzer went into greater detail on each of these areas. Obviously, everyone’s situations are different but as a general rule of thumb, these are good areas to do a little self-diagnosing.
Read his full breakdown of where he thinks people are falling short and dividing one another here.