Yesterday, I argued that Christians ought to demonstrate practical unity in this presidential election. I laid out three different views of the election (vote Clinton! vote Trump! vote nobody!), and while I obviously don’t agree with all of those views—after all, they contradict one another—none of them can be clearly said to break Christian unity.
What do I mean by “Christian unity”? That the true gospel and doctrines of our faith must transcend pragmatic disagreements over politics. We should have more in common with other believers based on our statements of faith than we do based on our political outlook.
We are all dual-citizens, but our citizenships have a hierarchy to them. We honor the king, but we fear the Lord. In other words, we vote but we ought not get too much of our identity from it. If we let the darkness of politics cover the light of our faith, then we are doing it wrong.
This is exactly why it is unacceptable for pastors to disregard Scriptural truth for political expediency. Making cavalier claims about the nature of saving faith in order to legitimize a politician demonstrates confusion about which citizenship should coloring our world view.
Look: I understand the argument about voting for Trump, I really do. And it is reasonable, permissible, and perhaps even good for the cause of our country given our current choices. But this election has brought out pastors who excuse the love of money, divorce, gambling, and pornography for the sake of perceived political alliances. That kind of calculated cunning creates disunity by calling what is evil good (Isaiah 5:20).
Instead Christians should cherish the unity we have in our gospel convictions. We are part of a body with “one faith, one Lord, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). In our singular church body we have different functions; some of us are even politicians! But the unity in our body does not come from our vocations or politics, but rather from having our identity knit in Christ (Romans 12:4-5).
It is these gospel convictions that empower our gospel witness, and any fissure in our unity of convictions presents a fracture in our evangelistic power. The church should stand for light and against darkness. It should be the beacon that warns the world of destruction while simultaneously offering rescue through Christ (Matthew 5:13). But we down play the sins of lying, pride, gambling, and divorce, when we excuse them with a “what do you expect?” or even worse, as the antics of a “baby Christian.” If we justify sin in our political leaders we lose our ability to confront the same sins in the world. If I can mix a metaphor, if the salt loses its saltiness then the lamp is put under a basket (Matthew 5:15). Or to put it another way: Herodians would have had a hard time opposing divorce if they valued their politics more than their prophet.
Fortunately, we have not been called to be the kingmakers of political ruling classes. We have indeed been called by God—not to elevate political solutions, but proclaim the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:2). It’s that proclamation which gives us unity.
I strongly believe that Christians should be active in politics. I long for the day God raises up our generation’s William Wilberforce, and I applaud those who labor to protect religious freedom. There are many politicians who make extreme sacrifices in their lives to advance our nation’s good, and I’m thankful for them (Romans 13:4, 7). But I also remember that my unity with them comes through our common task in reaching the world for Christ, and not through their election (Matthew 28:19-20).
This then is the danger: permitting the gospel message to be superseded by any other cause is to illegally commandeer Christ’s pulpit and hand it to another.
Beyond unity in our gospel convictions and in our gospel witness, we are also called to unity in gospel Community.
Since the calling of the Twelve, political affiliation has been secondary to Kingdom affiliation. If Matthew the Levi and Simon the Zealot can fellowship at the same table, so can we. And I don’t mean that as hyperbolically as it might sound. Ask yourself: if knowing someone in your small group is going to vote for someone different than you, will that hinder your fellowship?
As the adage goes, the church is the people, not the building. While a building is as strong as the bricks, a church is as strong as its unity in the truth. If the gates of hell cannot stand against Christ’s church, but virulent campaigning can, Satan needs new political operatives. If our love for party takes up more room in our hearts than a love for the people of God, 1 John has some harsh words for us.
I’m not trying to tell anyone who to vote for. Instead I am appealing for you to seriously examine how strongly you view unity in the church, and ask yourself: can someone the caliber of our candidates this year really break that unity?