We’ve just come through an election season that provided a wonderful opportunity for Christians to demonstrate how they love and respect one another, even when they think very differently about important issues. Sadly, many believers seem to have missed that opportunity.
Both before and after the election, some believers have been so distraught at how others who professed Christ voted, that they have taken the drastic step of breaking fellowship, sometimes even with close friends, because that other Christian voted “wrong.”
I am convinced that not only is this a tragedy, but it is unbiblical and a grievous disservice to the cause of Christ.
In the run-up to this election, many Christians believed, and were even taught from the pulpit, that it was their duty to vote for the Republican candidate, Gov. Romney. Large numbers of evangelical believers were led to the conclusion that no genuine Christian could possibly vote for President Obama, because of his stands favoring abortion and same-sex marriage. Trusted evangelical leaders preached that for Christians committed to voting their biblical values, these issues must absolutely determine their votes, even if it required voting for one whose religion they had previously been taught was an ungodly cult.
Many other committed Christians had a different perspective. While acknowledging that the president’s positions on the hot button issues of abortion and homosexuality were absolutely unbiblical, they also believed that these were not the only biblical and moral issues Christian voters had to consider. Noting that Scripture gives far less attention to issues like abortion and homosexuality than it does to God’s commands that we care for, advocate for, and defend the poor and oppressed, they came to believe they must give these latter issues greater weight in their voting decision.
The result of these differing perspectives was that Christians equally committed to voting biblical values ended up voting some for Gov. Romney and some for President Obama. And according to Romans 14, that’s OK. It’s certainly not a valid reason for judging or breaking fellowship with one another. Look at what this passage teaches us about how Christians can disagree and still love and respect one another.
Rom 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.
Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? . . .
Rom 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
Rom 14:6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.
Rom 14:10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Rom 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
It seems pretty clear that God does not expect or require all Christians to believe the same on important but doubtful issues. (Of course, when Scripture definitively addresses an issue, that settles it – it is no longer “doubtful”).
Romans 14 warns us to be very wary of sitting ourselves down on the judgment seat that the true Judge reserves for Himself. James 4:11-12 says, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”
Clearly, both President Obama and Mitt Romney were seriously flawed as “Christian” candidates. Since neither fully met God’s standards, believers had to vote based on their own convictions about which man most closely aligned with Gods priorities. Unsurprisingly, not every sincere believer came to the same conclusion. On issues where the Bible does not provide a definitive answer, God allows for such differences, requiring only that “each be fully convinced in his own mind,” and that whatever a person’s choice, it must be “to the Lord.”
To my mind, Romans 14 simply leaves no room for any believer to take a “my way or the highway” attitude on biblically doubtful issues. To do so is a violation of humility (putting ourselves in the place of the Judge) and unloving towards the fellow believer we condemn because they reached a different conclusion than we did.
Jesus said that it is to be our visible love for one another that assures non-believers that we indeed represent Him (John 13:34-35). When they see Christians saying harsh and condemning words about one another, and actually breaking fellowship because of a difference of opinion concerning politics, what a terrible testimony we present. On the other hand, when the world sees that believers can be fully engaged on opposite sides of a hard-fought campaign, yet still manifest nothing but love and respect for one another, they are brought face to face with the genuineness and life-transforming power of the love of Christ.
We who bear the name of Christ before a watching world desperately need to learn and apply the message of Romans 14. Much more than seeing our candidate win, our goal should be to demonstrate by our words, actions and attitudes toward one another that because Christ is indeed among us, believers can have strong and differing convictions, but still love one another.
That, and not winning an election, is something that really lets our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Image credit: DonkeyHotey via flickr (CC BY 2.0)