According to a recent poll by Lifeway Research of 1,000 Protestant Pastors, 44% said their “people’s political views” were difficult to deal with.
Additionally, 48% of the respondents expressed concern regarding, “people’s strong opinions about nonessentials.”
“Congregations are filled with many opinions,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.
“It is not easy to bring a congregation’s focus to a few things to do together that matter. People’s obsession with nonessentials, politics, and a dislike for change all hamper a pastor’s ability to provide leadership,” McConnell observed.
Given the political polarization in the past several years, the results of the survey are not too surprising. Without empirical data, we’ve both seen and heard of issues arising among God’s people over political candidates, policies, and governmental mandates. Sadly, some have left the church, and some churches have split over politics and policies.
When faced with such issues, what’s the answer?
As a foundational beginning, we must remember that God has called us to be “one in Christ Jesus.” Paul expressed it to first-century churches in Galatia this way:
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-27).
Jesus role-modeled that diversity among his apostles and disciples who followed him. Among the twelve there was Matthew the tax collector who was politically aligned with the Roman Empire and Simon the Zealot who was a fierce opponent of the Roman state. Yet, both followed Jesus. And both were commissioned to take the gospel into all the world, preaching the same soul-saving message (Mk. 16:15-16).
Jesus’ inner circle consisted of women who followed and supported Him, some of dubious reputation (Lk. 8:1-3). However, Jesus also attracted rulers and people of prestige and position, as well as “the least of these” with no social standing or economic clout.
Furthermore, the early church reflected the diversity of Jews, Hellenists, Greeks, slaves, Roman citizens, wealthy and poor people. The scriptural exhortations regarding relationships reflect how God expected them to do more than tolerate each other, but to set aside their external differences and be united in “one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
So, we read such “one another” exhortations.
“Accept one another” (Rom. 14:1).
“Let us not judge one another” (Rom. 14:13).
“Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
“Submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21).
“Be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32).
“Do not bite and devour one another” Gal. 5:15).
“Do not speak evil of one another” (Jas. 4:11).
“Love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35).
Christians can walk together “the one another way” even when some are Republicans and others Democrats. Libertarians or Independents. Black and white. Wealthy and middle class. Homeschoolers and public school supporters. Northerners and Southerners. And even with some wearing masks, and others wearing no masks.
How? And why?
Because our commonality in Christ, our mutual ministry, and our eternal aspirations supersede all earthly, cultural, economic, racial, or political differences and opinions.
Interestingly the #1 challenge facing these church leaders, according to the Lifeway survey, was apathy and their members’ lack of commitment to the ministry of the church. Suppose when our commitment is not focused on spiritual matters, then it’s easy to become obsessed with politics and various non-essentials?
Let’s renew our commitment to Christ and refocus our energies on what’s really important.
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman