Impeachment and Election 2020: Fighting Peaceably for What We Believe

Three questions to ask ourselves

“What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:12-14

In the midst of impeachment furor and an election year, how do we “seek peace and pursue it?” How do we, as Christians who are charged to show a watching world what the Kingdom of God looks like, talk about impeachment, our leaders and election issues in personal conversations? On social media?

Especially if we support President Trump. So many evangelical Christians, especially the younger generation, are wondering how evangelicals can support him and still follow Christ. Here are three questions to ask ourselves if we want to maintain a good witness and example in 2020:

Am I being a Good Steward of My Citizenship?

In today’s highly polarized political climate, I don’t think this means we shrink back from political engagement. We are called to be good stewards of the gifts that God gives us. One of our greatest gifts is our citizenship, especially in The United States where we are the government. This means we need to be informed about our elected officials and the issues at hand so we can speak and vote wisely.

How Can I Find Information I Can Trust?

In today’s polarized culture how can we cut through media bias? One good way is to read both sides of an issue. I read my daily New York Times digest to catch the headlines, but understand it’s written from a very liberal/progressive perspective. Proverbs 18:17  gives us some wise advice: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” To get out of our echo chamber, our Christian bubble, it helps to read different sides of the same story.

Ultimate I rely more on news written from a christian worldview. My two favorite news sources are World magazine and The Stream online news aggregate.

Once we have found reliable information, we should be engaged, but in a way that values peace and justice. We may need to fight for justice. God may be laying a justice issue heavily on our hearts. Many evangelicals feel that Proverbs 24:11 compels them to advocate against abortion or human trafficking: “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” But we need to fight peaceably. Maybe this final question can help us do that…

Does What We Say and the Way We Say It Take Seriously Our Call to Honor Everyone?

Some time ago, in another church, an elder and good friend invited me to have a look at something in his wallet. He pulled out a fake $2 bill featuring President Obama’s portrait in the center oval—smiling and sporting an Arab turban. I looked up at my friend but didn’t smile. Neither did I say anything. I found it offensive but couldn’t process an appropriate response in the four-second window I had. I regretted how I handled that and decided to think it through Biblically and be prepared in the future.

Now I have a much more thoughtful response to an invitation to take a punch or have a laugh at our president’s expense. If a fellow-believer is mean-spirited and mocking, like my friend’s two dollar bill, I can gently ask, “I know how you feel about our president, but may I ask you a question: Have you ever read 1 Peter 2:1—“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor”? What do you think Peter means?”

Christ calls us to honor the image of God in everyone. Even the emperor. Even a horrific emperor like Nero, who was emperor when the apostle Peter wrote this. The same Nero who lashed Christians to poles and set them ablaze to provide outdoor lighting at his garden parties.

This command is incredibly difficult to follow and so ignored, even in our churches. But we know Jesus has the best wisdom about everything, especially being good stewards of our relationships, something far more important than our citizenship.

If we feel like God is encouraging us to go this route, then we need to do it as gently and prayerfully as possible. We also need to know that there is a good chance, no matter how gently we address it, that it will severely test the relationship. It is best done in private, taking someone aside or quietly messaging them. Even then, we may be risking the friendship.

I had a professional Christian friend who was repeatedly ranting on my Facebook page against President Trump. Mocking, name-calling…certainly dishonoring him. Readers of this blog know that I am not an unqualified fan of the president. But after one particularly disrespectful attack the same day my husband had preached on this passage I privately messaged her.

I began with great empathy for her previous marriage to an abusive, narcissistic husband who, in some ways, resembled the president. I acknowledged her tenderness in that area, but gently asked her what she thought of Peter’s admonition. She criticized me harshly and unfriended me.

Whether we are fighting against or for the president or other political leaders, we have the best witness when we fight peaceably, always honoring the other person as one made in God’s image. Remembering that we are all mixed bags of motives.

Beware the politician that presumes to absolutely know his or her opponent’s motives, especially if they claim their opponents motives are all irredeemably bad all the time. The Apostle Paul has honestly said of his own motives that even when he is not aware of anything against himself he doesn’t judge himself. Only the Lord can acquit him. God alone knows what is in our hearts.

I’ve cringed today as Speaker Pelosi and President Trump have each blasted the other’s motives for faith and prayer. There has been no honoring on either side. I feel like the entire nation is in the back seat listening to their parents tear each other apart. Listening to the accusations and vitriol helplessly as people who should lead with honor are reaching for the fiercest words and most wounding metaphors to tear the other down.

We can’t do anything about the way our political leaders are dishonoring each other. But we are clearly admonished by Paul that in conversations with other Christians we are to walk worthy of the Lord, “bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3).  Do believers with other political beliefs see us as contentious and sarcastic? What about a watching world?

I have loved watching the respectful demeanor of some of the peaceable fighters in this Senate impeachment process. Especially Patrick Philbin. Always, always respectful. Never, that I saw, nasty or mean-spirited.  Never yelling or sarcastic. Not that he wasn’t persuasive. At times he reminded me of the earnest persuasiveness of the Apostle Paul: “I beseech you, I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God…(Rom 12:1)” There is a way to plead with people to listen and agree without belittling them or assassinating the object of your persuasion.

Early in the Senate proceedings, after an intense debate over the rules, presiding Chief Justice John Roberts addressed the House Managers and Trump’s legal team, “I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body. Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.”

How much more important for us to seek peace and “speak truth in the sight of God?” (2 Cor 4:2)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “Impeachment and Election 2020: Fighting Peaceably for What We Believe

  1. thank you Lael. Glenn and I have discussed this topic often and I’ve prayed for the President to lay down his sword, repent and be kind. what a testimony it would be for all of man kind to see. now unfortunately it is a testimony of hate and pride.

    • I’ve been praying the same thing since he was running in 2016. His comments at the prayer breakfast…AAUGH!! But as head of the neighborhood watch he’s safeguarding much that I hold dear. Even if he’s keeping me up a few nights yelling at the bad guys and beating his own drum.

  2. I am so thankful for this post. I must share it because it speaks perfectly what many hearts deeply desire to express. And it also gives every believer continual questions to ask ourselves, as 1 Peter 2:1 admonishes.
    Am I “putting aside all malice?”
    “Do I put aside all deceit?”
    Or 1 Peter 2:13, Do I “honor all people?” Do I “love the brotherhood? Fear God, honor the king?”
    Not without help from the LORD and a continual bath in His Word!
    Thank you Lael.

    • Thanks for your kind and good words, Toni. I’m with you. If I’m not leaning into Jesus my words will not bring peace. But I so want to “see good days.”

  3. So good. Thank you, I feel admonished, corrected and convicted. I have been caught joining in ridicule of the misbehavior of the Speaker of the house, and was called on it by one of my millennials. The eyes watching are not so little anymore, and have developed, informed minds behind them, even if they are wearing worldly-wise, stained glasses. Above all, as your closing thought so gently reminded, “…the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him…”.
    ‭‭II Chronicles‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ .
    Thanks again Mrs. Arrington, and thank you Lancia Smith of ‘The Cultivating Project’ for sharing this.

  4. Re: “Honoring everyone”

    Honoring everyone is a good general principle. We are all made in the image of God. I was raised with the principle “If you can’t say anything good about someone, best not to say anything at all”. No gossip. No words of condemnation. Both honor and disrespect go deep, especially those of the male gender.

    However we err, if we take a general principle and make it a universal principle. Our Jewish fathers didn’t pracitce that message. Our fathers in the Faith bring the perspective, “There is a time for everthing.…a time to hate, a time for war.” We err if we apply rules of the household to verbal exchange with bullies in the street. We err when we apply the rules of rational debate to the arena of pyschological and spiritual warfare.

    When they show up, before saying a word, John greets his “guests” in with “You brood of vipers”-Matthew 3. Jesus picks up on John’s name calling, using “You brood of vipers” publically in Matthew 12 & 23 plus a few words of condemnation. Fourteen times,(in the NIV), Jesus calls his enemies, “you hypocrites”; not in private, not merely in public, but in their prescence.

    Jesus indulges in back talk. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he(interrogator) demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”-John 18;22-23
    Paul does the same thing, “Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” Acts 23:3. True, Paul did apologise, but only on the basis of talking to a superior, no apology for a peer. Interesting, no apology at all from Jesus.

    There is a time for arguing not so peaceably. Jesus cautions us that he didnot come to bring peace on a social or political level, but rather he promises a “sword”, a “fire” and the most hurtful “divisions”. Matthew 10:34, Luke 12: 49-53. Political and even religious conflict may just be an indication that good is happening, that God is at work.

    We are instructed to hate. “Hate what is evil;” Romans 12:9.
    Evil, falsehood, and wicked people need to be vigoroulsy opposed. And yes that includes backtalk and pulblic name calling. We need to call out bad behavior, evil ideas and destructive intent. The natural consequences of strife and division need to be embraced. Some of our greatest stories are of such great conflicts, Martin Luther King, Bonheoffer, King David, Stephen, Jesus.

    In their darkest hour, there is a long line of nobel men and women who who spoken out and against evil and lost their lives because of it. Should we shrink back from a brash, bold, billionaire businessman because he uses name calling and back talk to advance the truth, to advance what is good and right? Like many, we stumble over the stone of these practices and the public people who use them. We ignore how Jesus and some of his closest friends indulged in them. We say “shouldn’t have” when they certainly should have.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and respectful comment, Steve. You make some good comments about exceptions to fighting respectfully. I was thinking of them when I wrote my post. But the thrust of my post was directed at President Trump’s vengeful response to criticism.

      As I look at the exceptions to honoring one another that you mention, I see that the examples you give from John, Jesus and Paul are all directed at the religious leaders who profess to know and love God, yet attack Jesus. Jesus knows they are bent on murder and their hearts are so hard that they cannot be persuaded otherwise.

      In other situations we see him act with more regard. We see a difference in Jesus’ reply to his interrogator in John 18. The interrogator “demands.” Jesus simply “replies.” Even when Jesus is referring to Herod (in 3rd person) critically he calls him a “sly fox.” Before Pilate and Herod in person he does not attack them at all. when the chief priests and temple guard arrest him he heals the guard’s ear that Peter cut off. He always fights for the hearts of people more than winning.

      You cite Jesus’ declaration that he came to bring a “sword” as an example of when he did not argue peaceably. I never meant that arguing forcefully was not arguing peaceably. I think of the traditions of our founders deeply disagreeing over the constitution and Martin Luther in the Diet of Worms as arguing forcefully, but still with a respect for each one’s dignity. In the post I also gave the example of the President’s lawyer, Patrick Philbin, (at least most of what I saw) as arguing VERY forcefully, but with respect and honor.

      The lesson I take from this: We agree that falsehood and wicked people need to be forcefully opposed. Yet, unless you have Jewish leaders betraying the Son of God, of all people the hypocrites who should know better, then I believe we should speak truth, with forceful tone and language if need be, but respectful of the image of God in the other person. Remembering that we are fighting for hearts above all.