Last week in “Politics and Evangelism”, we took a look at the dangers which can sometimes accompany our eagerness to express a political opinion. We examined the importance of speaking the truth when we represent those who don’t agree with us and (in passing) the importance of doing so with grace. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t express our views … just that we take the time to ensure that we are expressing them in a godly fashion. But what do you do if, like me, you find it hard to keep your tongue in check? This week, we’ll be taking a look at a few good tips for developing a more diplomatic approach to political involvement – one that will reflect well upon both us and the God we serve!
- Practice in private what you want to portray in public. This should go without saying, but it doesn’t. I remember plenty of Sunday mornings’ spent yelling at the members of the “Meet the Press” crew like they could hear me through the thousands of miles of cable that stood between my television and their studio. I’ll be honest, the things I was saying weren’t flattering … and sometimes they found their way out of my mouth when I was nowhere near the TV. If we want to behave gracefully in public, the place to practice is in our homes. That means holding our tongues whenever we find ourselves compelled to express our opinions in a way that degrades or belittles others.
- Think twice before hitting the “forward”, “repost”, or “share” buttons. We’ve all seen those cute, sarcastic cartoons taking stabs at those with whom we disagree. We love those witty one-liners and scathing reviews. But what may be funny in private, isn’t always so amusing when diffused throughout the internet. Before you share that brilliant repost, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” Odds are, He wouldn’t be taking cheap pot-shots at His opponents … and neither should we.
- If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. We learned this from our grandparents, but I’m inclined to think that very few of us listened. (I know I didn’t!) Grandma wasn’t advising us to speak only when we were in agreement with others, but rather to season our speech with grace. In other words, if you’re going to disagree, do it nicely. Jesus would have put it, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you can’t speak without taking a stab at the opposition, you’re better off just keeping your mouth shut.
- Pray. I know. It’s one of the simplest suggestions, but it’s also one of the most effective. I’ve never found it easy to pray for someone and slam them as being worthless at the same time. The two simply aren’t compatible. Try it the next time you start to get riled.
- Avoid temptation. If you know you have a tendency to go off the deep end when others express opinions less well-formed than yours, avoid placing yourself in situations where you’re “overexposed” to those opinions. This doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to what other have to say or take the time to acquaint ourselves with someone else’s world view, but it does mean that we don’t do so in a way that leaves us with the steam coming out our ears. If something consistently gets you worked up, turn it off or put it down. You’re better off being ignorant than blowing up and dishonoring the Name of Christ.
Following these rules doesn’t always come easy. If you’re like me, you’ll still periodically find your finger hovering almost irresistibly over the “share” button or trying to “sneak a fix” from Fox News or CNN. The question isn’t whether we occasionally slip and fall back into these negative behaviors, but whether we’re actively trying to represent the cause of Christ in our political expression. When we succeed, we gain credibility – giving others a reason to trust our testimony when we speak of things more important than the latest bill to pass congress or the most recent EU crisis.