As we begin another presidential election year, followers of Christ may have sentiments like recent election cycles. Many of us see both good and bad in the competing positions of those seeking office, but we despair over the incivility and contempt among contesting parties, and the folly of calls for cultural advancement without moral virtue.
While unity under God is an enduring goal, the already-sour public discourse is likely to worsen. Disagreements over policy have become attacks on character and motives. And serious problems emerge in a culture seemingly intent on sinking into the morass of human sin rather than seeking direction from a Holy God.
As Christians, we know that the answers are in the Holy Bible. It’s a time to search the Scriptures, to pray fervently, and to model love for one another.
God’s people need to be equipped to be engaged as citizens of both the kingdom of God and the state, and the best place to turn is the Bible. The Bible provides not only God’s plan for our personal redemption, but widely read, understood, and applied it can bring about change in our culture.
Christians in Rome in the 1st century faced long odds and virulent foes in the state and culture. In his letter to Christians in Rome, Paul addressed the battle of good and evil. His words are a guide for our times.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
– Romans 12:2, 9-18 NLT
This passage suggests something that is not easily understood by the world: that in all strife and contention, those that seek revenge are conquered, and those that forgive are conquerors.
If we can’t spread more hope than despair, more encouragement than denigration, more repentance than accusation, more love than hate—than good will not prevail.
Since men became enemies to God, we have been very ready to be enemies with one another. And those that embrace Christ must expect to meet with enemies in a world whose smiles seldom agree with His. But we must not return evil for evil, a response befitting only animals, which are not conscious of any being above them, or of any existence hereafter.
Ed Stetzer, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, wrote in Christians in the Age of Outrage (Tyndale: 2018) about the need for Christians to demonstrate winsome love:
This doesn’t mean we must accept and embrace other people’s positions; it simply means we avoid the hostile debate that defines [today’s online] engagement. Winsome love doesn’t speak to whether we disagree; rather, it shapes the way in which we disagree.
This requires a commitment to biblical teaching and a restoration of moral virtue. As Chuck Colson asked frequently in his critique of our declining culture: Do we really think we can keep our freedom and maintain good will in a society without virtue or the “little platoons” that form virtue? The answer to Chuck’s question is still, of course, no.
Only Christ can restore this mess. We must be about His work of restoration.
Jim Jewell is communications director at Tyndale House Publishers. Tyndale’s newest Bible, the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition, will release on October 1. A launch event called “Peace Talks: A Call for Salvation and the Restoration of Civility and Moral Virtue,” will be held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, on October 17. The event is free and open to the public and tickets are available at Peace Talks Registration.