If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

For the past few weeks, I’ve been preaching and teaching from the book of James. In his letter, James takes a strong stance on “taming the tongue,” only speaking when thinking is involved, doing more listening than talking, and only speaking in a way that will demonstrate self-control and honor to God.

That’s a tough “sell” during an election year.

My long-time friend Stephen Loftis, pastor of Mountain Grove Church in Hickory, NC, gave me a reminder to practice what I preach today. I haven’t done it often, but I have been guilty of violating the “code” of James in recent weeks. I have had a church member or two remind me, gently and kindly, that my political opinions must be expressed with care.

Like it or not, when I speak, I am viewed as speaking on behalf of the church! While I’m allowed to believe and vote however I choose, public proclamations must be handled with care.

I have struggled with some anger over politics in recent weeks, and have not always expressed that in the best way. I avoid the topic publicly if I can, but sometimes I lose sight of the greater good.

I do not know what Stephen’s political positions are, and have no idea what party, if any, that he claims. But this is a great reminder that our political passion should never outweigh our passion for Christ. When we lose sight of the command to love one another, we have allowed our politics to outweigh what is supposed to be our one true passion.

As Stephen puts it:

Recently, a pastor friend noted on his FB page the various, and maybe polar opposite, political opinions exressed by members of the church he serves. He applauded them for expressing their stances, and for their ability to continue to work collectively for the kingdom of God, even in the face of their differing political views. (Thanks Jeff Roberts). More recently, I have read, with great distress, several postings from other pastor friends who have divulged thier political views in, well let’s call it, “vitriolic” language. I have struggled for several days as to whether to speak to this issue or not. I cannot let it pass any longer. 

The putrid language of vengence, spite, rancor, etc. does not seem to me to be very Christlike. It’s not a bad thing to say that one supports one candidate over another. But, to continue to spread unfounded and false rumor, to spew language that calls for division and disdain, that suggests that those who might vote otherwise makes that person less Christian is not appropriate. My friends, the scriptures are clear. We MUST pray for those in leadership. If we are going to hold to strict adherence to the scripture, Whether you like the current leadership (national, state or local) you MUST pray for them. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-3) They are YOUR elected leaders. Over the course of my 30 years of ministry, I have found myself praying for people/leaders in public settings that I did not like personally. So let me ask a favor. If you want to be mean spirited, hostile or vitriolic, help yourself. BUT, unfriend me! I don’t want to read it. It only fuels the division within our people and creates hurt and enmity. And, doesn’t The Apostle Paul speak to that, too. (See Titus 3:1-2, Romans 12:8, Romans 14:19, Ephesians 4:3, and though not from Paul, read also Hebrews 12:14-15)

And before you ask, I’m not going to tell you how I plan to vote. There’s a reason the voting booth has room for only one person and why the sides are blocked so no one can see in. And yes, I have already made up my mind, and there is little that any can do to change it. 

Shalom!

In short, if you can’t say anything nice…well, you know how it goes.

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