As America Grapples With Division, Here Are 4 Ways Pastors Can Help Bridge the Divide

Nov 3, 2020 | Current Events

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As we prepare for the 2020 Presidential Election, we have an important role as Christian leaders to shepherd our congregations through this time of division and contention. We are called by God to walk in Christ’s footsteps to be peacemakers—not merely peacekeepers. Peacemaking is not passive but rather an active commitment to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers—and all of our brothers and sisters, not just those that we agree with. We must remember and live by Hebrews 12:14: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Rooted in Scripture, here are four ways you can take action right now to help bridge the divide in your church, community, and our nation:

1. Share the Good News

The news cycle and social media can make it seem as if violence and hate are the norm, but the reality is that the vast majority of Americans want to see our country come together. They go about their daily lives sharing the Gospel, not just by word, but also in deed—helping those in need and loving their neighbor as themselves. Ask your congregation to measure their words carefully in this volatile season—whether in person or on social media—and use them to show grace, mercy, and respect for one another, choosing to build people up instead of tearing them down (James 3:9). And encourage them to continue sharing the good news as they build others up. Though we may feel inundated with the negative news, there are so many stories of goodness—of God’s goodness operating through human words and deeds—happening all around us.

2. Encourage your Congregation to Get Involved in a Positive Way

We have the opportunity to show the love of Christ by serving as peacemakers at the polls and within our communities. As Romans 16:17 reminds us, we must “watch out for those who cause division and put up obstacles in [our] way that are contrary to the teaching [we] have received.”

As Christian peacemakers, it is our responsibility to discourage intimidating behaviors and condemn violence. If we know someone who is uncomfortable going to the polls alone, we can accompany them and serve as a peaceful presence. We must call on Americans to respect and support each other and to advocate peacefully for their political perspectives.

3. Engage on Christian Values, not Partisan Agendas

As believers, our identity is first and foremost found in Christ. When we return to the basics of our faith, it is His Word and His example that so clearly shows how we engage our fellow Americans with whom we disagree. We are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:27-29).

You can use your weekly sermons as an opportunity to remind your congregation that, as Christians, we root our identity in Christ, not in partisan agendas or political parties. To continually help bridge the divide, our congregations can be a light on social media, in neighborhoods, at our workplaces, in grocery stories, and more by speaking out when they see injustice and keeping their responses in line with Christ’s teachings.

4. Join in the Effort to Encourage Peacemaking

Are you troubled by the division, hatred, and violence in our country? You’re not alone. Pastors across the country are coming together to speak with one voice, starting by signing the 2020 Call for Biblical Peacemaking: Evangelical Leaders’ Statement on Violence and Division. You can too. We know that elections, especially a deeply divisive election such as this one, can create pressure to act in ways that dishonor our Biblical witness for Christ. But they also create opportunities for each of us to put our faith into action and be the light of the world that we are called to be (Matthew 14).   

Although the outlook of our communities and nation may appear bleak, we have an eternal hope onto which we hold. Now, more than ever, we must return to the calling of Jesus to be peacemakers, a beacon of light for a country and a people struggling to find hope..

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