By Jerry White, International President Emeritus
Hatred. Divisiveness. Fear. Hostility. Animosity. Gloating. Joy. Relief. In the wake of changing governments and political turmoil, people in nation after nation are rocked with these emotions.
Today in country after country, wars and divisions split families and neighbors. In many places, the opposition is murdered or exiled. In others, no one dare speak a word publicly about any government actions or officials. Peaceful transitions of power are rare. And too often, justice and righteousness are nowhere to be seen.
In democratic countries, people expect to see more civility. And yet, during the recent U.S. election, accusations and harsh words became the norm. This occurred when there was no obvious oppression, injustice or outright evil. Divisive language emerged when there was only a difference of political philosophy. What are we as believers to do or think?
All of us look at political choices through a hierarchy of our priorities: the needs of the poor, the Supreme Court, laws regarding business, refugees, foreign policy, etc. But if we elevate these priorities higher than advancing the Gospel, or higher than our relationships, we can easily fall into unnecessary conflict.
The Bible often warns us about the danger of division among believers. In John 17:23, Jesus prayed that we as followers of Christ may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Our unity, Jesus said, is paramount to His purpose of reaching the lost with the message of His grace.
Through the years, I have worked with officials in the administrations of four presidents. They were good people. They were friends. I did not always agree with them or their policies, but we worked together for the common good. And I believe that the Scriptures can help us do the same.
First, it helps me to remember that God is in ultimate control. I recall Isaiah’s words about Cyrus, a pagan king: This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of . . . (Isaiah 45:1). In my Bible, I made a note by another verse regarding the U.S. election: No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges; He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:6–7).
God is sovereign over the nations. Yet our emotions may still consume us. And these emotions can often cause division, or keep us from expressing the Gospel as we should. How do we walk with Christ and honor God in our times?
Sometimes believers must take a stand against direct or systemic evil. But here is a short list of what we all can do as peacemakers and good citizens:
- Pray diligently for the leaders, especially for godly counsellors and moral decisions. We read in 1 Timothy 2:1–2 that we are to pray for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. Remember to pray for the leader’s surrounding team.
- Keep your walk with Jesus fresh and yielded.
- Be humble: Consider the lenses through which you prioritize your political and moral thinking and ask God to show you if your priorities should change.
- Remember that we do not necessarily know the full truth of many issues. So let’s pray and listen to others, taking care in not adamantly expressing our own views.
- Finally, I stay focused on my calling. I am not called to be a political activist, but to be an evangelist and disciple-maker. It is not wrong to be publicly engaged, but our purpose is to communicate the truth of Christ’s redeeming power, a pure Gospel. We must not give people the impression that adhering to one political view or another is necessary to be follower of Jesus. We should engage in the issues of our times, but do so with an effort to keep the peace and to live out the Gospel.
In all things, we can rest. God is always on the throne. His purposes cannot be thwarted. Our role as Navigators continues to be “to know Him and to make Him known.”
Dr. Jerry White is International President Emeritus of The Navigators. He served almost 19 years as International President (until 2005). He retired as a Major General from the US Air Force. He and his wife, Mary, live in Colorado Springs.