Redeeming the rhetoric of political discourse

March 16, 2021

Political discourse has become more divisive and toxic among politicians and constituents alike.

Discussions over differences between political parties and policies have devolved from respectful debate to verbal accusations, assaults and attacks. And it’s easy to be drawn into the fray.

Have you ever stopped to consider how such rhetoric is damaging to our witness and the kingdom of God? And not just in an election year.

Here are three things to remember when we engage in political — or any other — discussions that could be divisive.

Remember that people matter more than politics or parties
Often, the political rhetoric goes something like this. People of differing political persuasions debate an issue. One makes a point, and the other responds by saying something like, “you,” “your side” or “your party” believe this or do this.

Such language can classify, categorize and compartmentalize people in ways that immediately puts them at odds with one another. Remember that those who don’t share your political views or don’t belong to the political party you support are people made in the image of God who Christ died for.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” — Colossians 4:6 (ESV).

Remember that our words matter
Political debates can quickly devolve into name-calling and finger-pointing, which has been frowned upon since elementary school. We might expect a child to act this way, but what about an adult?

How is belittling language helpful? It can actually be harmful and overshadow any compelling point you make. Have we given up the desire to sway others politely for the kingdom for the sake of being heard or making a statement?

Scripture has much to say about our speech. Our words should build up rather than tear down. They should be gracious rather than grating. They should edify rather than hurt.

Remember the words of Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (ESV).

Remember that we are first citizens of God’s kingdom
As a follower of Christ, you have been bought with the price of the cross and transferred from the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of God. Your first and foremost affiliation is to God’s kingdom.

As a citizen of God’s kingdom, we are called to speak truth to this world and when its institutions are in error. This is what it means to be a faithful citizen of the kingdom of God and a good citizen to this world.

There is a struggle to navigate our faith while living as citizens of two kingdoms. There is a temptation for politics to take precedence because it’s something we see the effects of and can tangibly fight for.

We see the impact of abortion on demand. We see the impact of immigration laws and open borders. We see the impact of redefining marriage. Therefore, we can don our political jerseys and go to battle against the “other” team. We often relegate the spiritual battle — including the care for our “opponents’” souls — for a very visible and tangible battle in the political world.

Questions like, “Which party do you affiliate with? Who do you align with? With whom does your allegiance lie?” should quickly be answered with “Christ!” And as we uphold the banner of Christ, we should also be willing to see the faults within our own institutions, parties and affiliations.

These tensions aren’t unique to us. Moses dealt with the tension of living as an Egyptian and as a Hebrew. Daniel knew what it was like to stand against the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar in order to stand for the kingdom of God. Esther chose to conceal her identity with God’s chosen people for a period of time in order to identify with the physical kingdom she lived in.

We need grace, and we need to show grace, as we figure out this tension, too.

by Terry Long  
Church Health and Revitalization  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
      Jonathan Blaylock  /  Pastor  /  North Albemarle Baptist Church

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