Of all the consequences of this presidential election, the one that dismays me most is the rupture between those who have been friends and allies in a cause. It has happened in the political/cultural conservative camp in general and among conservative Christians also. The latter is the more grievous.
Some are now questioning whether the breach that has been created can ever be healed. I believe it can be, but I don’t know if it will.
I have been distressed from the start of the campaign, in the primaries, as I’ve witnessed so much anger being expressed through support for Donald Trump. It’s as if he became a magnet for many who have been so frustrated with the developments in the Obama years.
I understand that frustration. More has changed negatively in the last eight years than in previous decades combined. But it’s always a sign of danger when anger drives actions. It’s very dangerous when anger becomes the primary determinant in voting. When emotions control the mind, we usually go astray.
The Scripture deals directly with that problem. In James 1:20 we’re admonished,
But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
When we give vent to our anger, we may think we are doing God’s will, but James’s caution should remind us that He has a better way.
Anger that is allowed to fester goes one step further into a bitterness that spreads its malignancy to others, as the writer of the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, warns us:
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
The first piece of instruction in that passage is that we are to do whatever we can to maintain peaceful relations with all. Shouldn’t that be especially true of brothers and sisters in Christ?
Second, there is a stiff warning about sanctification in the Christian life: without it, we may be cut off from the Lord. That, by itself, should stun us into being careful in our words, actions, and reactions.
Then the writer focuses on what he calls a “root” of bitterness. If bitterness does take root in our minds, it has the natural tendency to see all things through that bitterness. Not only will it affect our very souls but it will infect the lives of others.
The Biblical message is clear on this issue. Probably the best overall teaching on this is found in Ephesians chapter 4, in which the apostle Paul says,
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Paul recognizes that anger is natural and not necessarily wrong; after all, God gets angry. However, one can be angry without the anger leading us into sin. There is a line that can be crossed, but must not be. When we cross it, we are giving Satan a playground of his own; it allows him the opportunity to destroy lives. For a quick refresher on that, I recommend C. S. Lewis’s masterful work, The Screwtape Letters, which exposes exactly how the hellish realm seeks to lead Christians on the wrong path.
Here’s the end of Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
There are times we are to speak forcefully about something, but it must always be in love. We can share our hearts about the issues we face in this nation, but we must never allow even the most earnest sharing to descend into name-calling and/or false accusations against another.
We are to speak the truth, and it can be with energy and urgency, but it cannot be spoken in anger, and we simply cannot let bitterness take over.
Perhaps we all need to check our spirits today. What are we communicating and how are we communicating it?