I think politics are important, and I am always fascinated by the political process in our country. I enjoy watching debates, I like reading articles on policy, I think it’s fun to take online quizzes that match you up with your ideal candidate. But at this point I have to wonder if the combination of social media and a presidential election haven’t gotten a little out of hand. As someone who is trying to follow Jesus, what should I do in this heated political climate?
I was interested this morning to read Paul’s words in 1 Timothy as I was thinking about this question. To help put Paul’s words into context, Paul wrote this letter at a time when it wasn’t uncommon for people of varying faiths to be executed by the government. (It wasn’t uncommon for people in general to be executed by the government.) Jesus, for instance, was crucified under governmental authority. Stripped naked. Nailed to a piece of wood. Hung up to die. It was an excruciating and cruel form of execution that was used countless times in ancient Rome.
It was in this context that Paul writes the words, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Wait, what?! Let me be sure I have this straight. Paul wants the followers of Jesus to pray for the same people who crucified Jesus? That’s crazy, right? Yes! It IS crazy because it’s what’s going on here in 1 Timothy. Paul urges his readers to offer prayers for those in authority.
Fast forward to today. There are two things I haven’t seen this election cycle. Number one, I haven’t seen either one of our political candidates or their associates crucify, stone, or flog anyone, or do anything remotely resembling the kinds of things that were commonplace for the Roman government to do to its detractors. Number two, I haven’t seen Christians, on either side of the political spectrum, publicly do anything that resembles prayer in their commentary on social media. It’s been heated, it’s been ugly, it’s been divisive, but it sure hasn’t been prayerful.
A response to a post like this might say, “Well, Travis, the beautiful thing about freedom of speech is that people can say whatever they want and you don’t have to look at it.” That’s true. I don’t have to look at it. But I also don’t have to stand for it or keep silent about it, because the truth is I feel like I may need to distance myself from it and to ask other people of faith to do the same. You see, I don’t think we follow the Jesus who hates people and refuses to listen to them or see anything good in them or about them because of their basic political ideology.
As Paul goes on to say here in 1 Timothy, when we pray, it “pleases God our Savior, who wants ALL PEOPLE to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Do you know what the Greek words translated as “all people” literally mean in English? They literally mean ALL PEOPLE! For my brothers and sisters of the Democrat persuasion, this includes Mitt Romney. For my brothers and sisters of the Republican persuasion, this includes Barack Obama.
So, here’s my “what if?” of the day: What if, over the next two weeks, every time you or I are tempted to post something political on social media, particularly if it’s snarky, we stop and pray? (And I don’t mean just pray, “God, please help my guy win!”) What if we stopped and prayed for wisdom? What if we took a minute to thank God for creating the person we DON’T plan to vote for? To thank God for his gifts? For his family? To ask God to give him guidance over the next two weeks? What would happen if Christians across our nation united in prayer over the next two weeks for our leaders and candidates, for each other, for our world, and that God might use us in powerful ways to bring healing and wholeness to his creation? What if? I just think it could be a beautiful thing.