The last few years American society has experienced a rapid decline in basic social stability. One by one, various cornerstones of morality and civility either have eroded beyond recognition through neglect or have been destroyed through the combined blows of political activism and judicial overreach. Competing factions on the social and political spectrum have grown increasingly distant and more regularly aggressive—all in the name of “fighting back.” Rather than building upon successes in race relations at practically every level of society, we tend to treat the most radical fringes on either side as representative of anyone who does not embrace our own point of view. Instead of recognizing the unity that exists to oppose injustice, people march to support criminals while agitating against the innocent. We have reached the point where people accuse those with whom they disagree with little to no evidence while excusing those on their own side despite a preponderance of evidence. People do not trust one another, nor do they trust the system, as the election of 2020 so sadly illustrates. Ignorance has run amok. Civility is dead. Enmity is out of control. This, my friends, is unsustainable.
The root of the problem—or at least a significant root—lies in how determined we have become to think the worst of others rather than the best, to assign malicious motives rather than considering other reasonable possibilities, and to assume every difference we have with others is evidence of their stupidity or monstrosity. When this happens, we begin to treat the smallest of differences with the same weight as major issues, which only diminishes our own credibility and discourages serious efforts to address significant problems. Reasonable people should be capable of rational discourse. Unfortunately, we have fallen prey as a nation to those who enjoy anarchy, those who enjoy fighting, those who enjoy ugliness, and those who enjoy arguing. Riots disguised as protests, murder in the name of social justice, name-calling as a way of dehumanizing others, and bickering on social media have become acceptable in some sectors of society, including even among some Christians. It would seem that loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39), walking in wisdom toward those who are without (Col. 4:5), and letting your speech be always with favor (Col. 4:6) has been trumped by political acrimony and social bitterness.
God has called His people to exhibit self-control (2 Pet. 1:5-8) instead of being out of control—and that includes everything surrounding politics. Whatever we do in life, we should side with God and righteousness not only in theory but in behavior. No Christian should support riots and violence as a path to social gain; we should be people calming the masses rather than stoking the flames (Prov. 29:8). No Christian should make it his aim to agitate; we are called to persuade people to the truth rather than participate in some Machiavellian divide and conquer tactic (Prov. 29:22). No Christian should attack innocent people to score points with political groups or make points for “the cause”; we should protect the innocent out of respect for righteousness—always (Prov. 29:10). No Christian should lend support to illegal or immoral behavior of any kind, regardless of the cause or personal connection (Prov. 29:24). None of these should prove controversial in the least to anyone truly committed to the cause of Christ.
Unfortunately, the world in which we live does not operate by or appreciate principles such as these. Regardless, Christians must. We must see the growing immorality in society, whether the acceptance of abortion, homosexuality, racism, crude language, or anything else, as a problem we must oppose and work to correct—as Christians (Prov. 29:16). Those in elected office have an undeniable influence on these matters in this country, which is why elections should matter to Christians (Prov. 29:2). However, when we act as if politicians themselves are the answer to immorality we do not understand politicians or Christianity. The problems we have in society can be traced to the rejection of God’s Word in the hearts of citizens, and that is why the answer to our problems lies in getting God’s Word back into people’s hearts (Prov. 29:18). Many people have invested so much of themselves arguing over politics that they have little left to give reaching out to the lost (Mark 16:15-16). We have unwisely accepted the mantra of social media that ranting and raving, posting rude memes, and sharing every “news” item that confirms our bias is a healthy contribution to society. God disagrees. “A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back” (Prov. 29:11).
My friends, if you want to have a conversation about the history of early America, the impact of the Civil War, or the growth of civil rights in America, I am qualified to discuss it. If you would prefer to talk about the Constitution, the changing role of the judiciary throughout history, or even political theory, I have background in that as well. But it is not my priority, and it should not be yours either. Moreover, when it comes to basic questions of human behavior, of right and wrong, and of how to have the right impact in society, a Christian’s role is to listen to God and obey Him. And somewhere in all the muck and mire of social decline, some Christians seem to have forgotten that simple truth. Whenever our reaction to evil leads us to behave in an unchristian way toward anyone, it is—without question—an overreaction. God hates evil, but He loved us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). That is our model. It is time for us to pattern our lives accordingly.