By Jim Jewell
Tyndale House Publishers
As we begin another presidential election year, followers of Christ may have sentiments like those we experienced in recent election cycles. Many of us see both good and bad in the positions of those seeking office, but we despair over the incivility and contempt among contesting parties, and the folly of calls for cultural advancement without moral virtue.
While unity under God is an enduring goal, the already sour public discourse is likely to worsen. Disagreements over policy have become attacks on character and motives. And serious problems emerge in a culture seemingly intent on sinking into the morass of human sin rather than seeking direction from a holy God.
As Christians, we know that the answers are in the Bible. It’s a time to search the Scriptures, to pray fervently, and to model love for one another. God’s people need to be equipped to be engaged as citizens of both the Kingdom of God and the state, and the best place to turn is the Bible. The Bible provides not only God’s plan for our personal redemption, but widely read, understood, and applied, it can bring about change in our culture.
Christians in Rome in the first century faced long odds and virulent foes in the state and culture. In his letter to Christians in Rome, Paul addressed the battle of good and evil. His words are a guide for our times.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
– Romans 12: 9-18, nlt
This passage suggests something that is not easily understood by the world: that in all strife and contention, those who seek revenge are conquered, and those who forgive are conquerors.
If we can’t spread more hope than despair, more encouragement than denigration, more repentance than accusation, more love than hate—then good will not prevail.
Since the Fall, when people became enemies of God, we have been very ready to be enemies with one another. And those who embrace Christ must expect to meet with enemies in a world whose priorities rarely agree with His. But we must not return evil for evil. Clearly, the mark of the Christian is to do just the opposite.
Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, wrote in Christians in the Age of Outrage (Tyndale, 2018) about the need for Christians to demonstrate winsome love:
Winsome love doesn’t mean that we must accept and embrace other people’s positions; it simply means we avoid the hostile debate that defines [today’s] online engagement. Winsome love doesn’t speak to whether we disagree; rather, it shapes the way in which we disagree.
This requires a commitment to biblical teaching and restoration of moral virtue. As Chuck Colson asked frequently in his critique of our declining culture: Do we really think we can keep our freedom and maintain goodwill in a society without virtue or the “little platoons” that form virtue? The answer to Colson’s question is still, of course, no.
Only Christ can bring peace and restore that which is badly broken. We must be about His work of restoration.
Jim Jewell is communications director at Tyndale House Publishers. Tyndale’s newest Bible, the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition, released on October 1. A launch event for the Bible called “Peace Talks: A Call for Salvation and the Restoration of Civility and Moral Virtue” will be held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, on October 17. The event is free and open to the public, and tickets are available on Eventbrite.