Being raised in a conservative Christian home has had many wonderful benefits.
I know a ton about the Bible, how to pray, how to lean on God through tough times and how to love others.
However, a lot of the people who were around growing up were quick to align basic Christian principles with a certain political party, which I completely bought into.
I used to be a staunch republican and proud of it. I just knew I was on the right side; morally, spiritually and ethically speaking. I would even go as far to say that if Jesus were walking on this earth today, He would definitely be a republican.
I believed that any “Christian” who was a democrat couldn’t actually be a follower of Christ because the Holy Spirit clearly would guide them away from their fallen political views.
I would get a lot of angry responses and hateful words thrown my way when I expressed a lot of my views on politics, albeit not in a very loving way, and I would justify it by using Jesus’ words – “the world hates you as it hated me.” (John 15:19)
It was a badge of honor to be hated for the cause.
Then, slowly over several years, I started meeting people that were actually affected by the policies I stood against, hurt by the rhetoric I preached, and turned off by the zealous nature of my beliefs. These real people with their real stories left me feeling so ashamed of my behavior.
My quest to be right had completely overtaken my calling to love.
I realized my political ideals had intertwined with my Christianity to an unhealthy degree, where I equated someone’s heart for God with how that person voted.
I came to grips with the fact that I had not helped one person find Christ’s love through my tactics. If anything, I turned people off from God.
When I began listening to people with differing viewpoints, my heart started to change. I saw that God clearly dwells on the other side of the aisle as well. After all, God does call us to take care of the widow, the poor, the orphan, the homeless and he doesn’t follow it with “but not if it’s with your tax money” or “but only if they agree to get a job.” I’m not saying there is a simple solution to these issues, but that’s the point. I’m beginning to think it’s not as black and white as I once thought.
Once you get to know people from different backgrounds, you find yourself wandering into the gray. You walk the journey with them, looking to Christ to guide you on the bumpy path ahead. It can be scary, but it’s beautiful.
It’s easy to condemn sin that we don’t struggle with. It’s easy to condemn an entire people group when we don’t personally know anyone in it.
It’s easy to judge. It’s harder to empathize.
So, we’re okay with sin, as long as it is our sin. As long as it is sin that is familiar and will still bring in tithes and offerings on Sunday morning. All the while, we ignore the ones we speak against; refusing to hear their stories because only really messed up people struggle with that sin.
If we were able to see the humanity in these people, it could pull on the string of our perfectly wrapped theology. And that would open up the can of worms we’ve always been warned about; that asking tough questions could lead to not believing in God at all.
Yet, I’ve actually found my faith in God increase through asking the tough questions. It’s caused me to talk to God, to wrestle with him on issues I don’t understand, and to have a deeper appreciation for His mysterious ways.
After all, He is God and I am not.
Many of the ultra-conservative Christian-right resemble the Pharisee far more than they resemble Christ right now. And the non-Christian sees it.
They don’t understand how a humble and loving Christ could have such righteously indignant followers. Maybe some of us really think we are being loving by speaking the “truth”, but for the most part, that is not how it is being received.
Unfortunately, a great number of people now associate the word “Christian” with a specific set of political beliefs and unloving characteristics.
Although it is often an unfair stereotype, I’ve found myself distancing myself from the term ”Christian” in order to better love and relate to the people God still wants to reach. I love Jesus with all of my heart and feel a deep conviction about what to do from here – which is to embrace the gray areas and just love. Period.
There are a lot of things that I don’t know anymore. The more I pray, read the Word, research and learn, the more questions I have. But I’m okay with that because of the things that I do know: God is good. God is sovereign. God is love.
As far as politics, I do not have a home on either side now. There are several issues that I feel strongly about on both sides.
The difference now is that I don’t feel strong enough about any policy to put it above loving people.
The people I struggle to love now are the “Christians” causing division and conflict, yet I pray to be better at loving them too.
Now at the end of the day, I will just say that I’m a follower of Christ and an all-out lover of Jesus and people.
Because I whole-heartedly believe that Jesus would stand with the outcasts before he would stand with the Christians who are casting them out.
guest blog: April Reuning