The fight fell along cultural-political lines. One side was strongly committed to moral purity and avoidance of idolatry. The other side took a more pragmatic view, not quite so concerned about cultural contamination from pagan influences. Both had a good point.
I'm not talking about our dispute over whether Christians can, or should, vote for Trump. I'm talking about the schism in the early church about whether Christians were allowed to eat meat sacrificed to idols.
The issue was that in some of the pagan cities like Corinth and Rome, what we think of as the restaurant industry and the pagan temple system were one and the same. So, eating meat meant one was eating meat which had been sacrificed to idols. People wanted to eat meat, but they also wanted to be faithful. Some didn't think they could be faithful and eat meat, too. Some thought it was just fine, and the two groups fought about it.
Paul didn't really take sides with one against the other. Instead he took sides against taking sides.
He told them:
"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters ... The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else's servant?"
In my view, whether to vote for Trump or not is clearly a disputable matter. This is obviously true because it is so widely disputed. There are mature and wise people on both sides of this issue. I know that there are many members of both the hard core never-Trump and the Trump sides who don't think that the issue is disputable. But that's how disputable matters go.
Those who ate meat sacrificed to idols had fallen into an attitude of contempt towards those who would not.
Paul told the Corinthian meat eaters:
"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol's temple, won't that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge."
How would doing this destroy brothers and sisters? Because of what he taught the Roman meat eaters:
"So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God .... But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin."
So, if someone believes sincerely that voting for Trump is wrong, then it would be wrong for them to vote for him, period. That's the Pauline principle. If they can't do it in faith, it's sin. If you disagree with their decision, then leave them in peace. Don't badger; don't cause them to stumble: keep it between yourself and God.
If, on the other hand, someone believes that voting 3rd party, or abstaining, is a sin, and that the only defensible action is to vote for Trump, then they should vote for Trump, period. Again, that's the Pauline principle. Never-Trumpers should leave Trump voters in peace, not glory in their own self-righteousness, and not shame Trump voters.
Now in the matter of meat sacrificed to idols, Paul calls the non-meat eaters "weaker brothers," which gives us something else to argue about. Whenever one of these disputes arises, the different sides don't just argue about the thing itself, but then they also go on to argue about which side is the "weaker brother" side. But that's how it works, when you have an argument about whether to practice the Hebrew Sabbaths or to keep kosher or to eat pagan sacrificial meat or to drink alcohol or .... to vote for Trump you don't just disagree about the issue, you disagree about which side is on the weaker brother side of the issue.
Speaking for myself, I honestly don't know which is the weaker brother side. If you pushed me for an answer, I'd say that it varies by individual, that in some cases the Trump voters are the weaker side, and that in other cases the non-Trump voters are. I see some people on each side who make very good arguments who seem to reason in a Biblically mature way (for positive examples of debate, see my friends Eric Metaxas and Rod Martin vs. David French and Napp Nazworth), and I see others on each side who are making appallingly bad arguments. But the most appalling argument of all is the one which says something like "I'm better than you, and because you stubbornly refuse to see my superior wisdom, I despise you."
Paul has not given us an Epistle to the Church in America in 2016, but we are free to apply his 1st Century principles to this 21st Century schism.
Here's my faltering attempt at an application: Trump is nothing. Hillary is nothing ... by which I mean that these people are nothing that God cannot handle. "The king's heart is in the hands of the Lord and He can turn whichever way He will." All that matters is New Creation. A united Church has the power to disciple the nations. A divided Church is weak and ineffectual. Rather than seeing voting for Trump or not as the main issue, instead discern the signs of the times: Trump and Hillary together both stand a resounding rebuke to the Church, and a sign of our weakness. We let this happen. That includes me.
If you are a Trump supporter and you use your flame thrower against brothers and sisters who disagree, then I've got news for you ... Trump has become your christ. No matter what you say Sunday morning, your action shows your loyalties.
If you are a never-Trumper and you harshly denounce and divide from fellow Christians who are faithful Christians and also reluctant Trump voters, then never-Trump moral posturing, and virtue signaling is your true god.
The bottom line is that this nation is in trouble whoever wins on November 8th and the only hope for America and for the world is found in the person and teaching of Jesus.
We live in a shattered nation because we are a shattered Church. On November 9th, we need to start to build again from out of wreckage, and we're going to need to do it together. Don't do anything now which will interfere with what we need to do then.
My primary goal during this election season has been to not lose any relationships with any fellow Christian or conservative and even with the remaining liberals of good faith. Now, if I can just hold out for another three days ....