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I (Matt Smethurst) recently read Jonathan Leeman and Andy Naselli’s helpful new booklet, How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics? (Crossway, 2020). It’s an ideal resource for church leaders to recommend and give away to their congregations during a contentious election season. The following 20 quotes caught my attention.


Our concern here is not with the mild disagreements, ones that don’t affect the heart’s posture toward someone else. Rather, we’re interested in the disagreements that affect your heart’s posture or that hinder fellowship with another person in your church. (11)

In the same way that faith creates deeds, so God’s work of justifying a person by grace through faith creates a concern about justice. And in the same way that deeds display and give evidence of faith, so our concern for justice demonstrates and gives evidence for our justification. (14)

People today often treat their votes as personal expressions of who they are. Yet we would encourage you to view votes less as matters of self-expression or tribal identification and more as strategic calculations concerning these kinds of non-biblical matters. Then recognize that different Christians will make different wisdom-based calculations. (21)

The gospel does not automatically resolve all our wisdom-based political judgments in the here and now. It helps us love and forbear with one another amid those different wisdom-based judgments. It creates unity amid diversity, not uniformity. (26)

Jesus did not design our churches to be a national or ethnic or class gathering or the gathering of a political party. Rather, he designed them to be gatherings of his followers from every tribe and tongue and nation. (27)

There’s been nothing like the church in the history of the world. Every other nation has been united either by powerful men with swords or by family relations, including ancient Israel. Yet now a new nation exists, held together by neither sword nor family but only by Word and Spirit. Indeed, it’s a nation that doesn’t presently possess a land. It’s like God wanted the world to see what he alone could do. So he took a bunch of natural enemies, saved them by his Son’s blood and his Spirit’s power, and created a united and peace-sharing people. (28)

The local church is where enemy tribes start beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. It’s where black and white, rich and poor, young and old, educated and uneducated, American and Chinese, sanitation worker and senator, unite. (28–29)

What does all of this mean practically for you? It means you show up at the church’s gathering on Sunday knowing your job is to beat those swords into plowshares. You expect to encounter that guy who rattles on and on about his political hobbyhorse, or that couple who aligns themselves differently than you, and you recognize that these encounters are good and God-intended. We’re not saying you necessarily abandon your own perspectives, but that you listen and you love. You have an opportunity to lower your sword and show the world another kingdom created by supernatural power. (29)

Keep [the] distinction between whole-church issues and Christian-freedom issues super clear in your mind when it comes to discussing politics. When Christians lose track of the distinction, they risk tearing apart a friendship, a small group, even a church. A whole-church issue, after all, can legitimately warrant excommunication. You don’t want to unthinkingly treat Christian-freedom issues as if they are whole-church issues that warrant excommunication. When we do that, we begin to divide ourselves from our brothers and sisters with the quiet thought inside our head, How can they be Christians and think that?! or They must be immature or thoughtless Christians! (34–35)

The vast majority of political issues, tactics, and strategies are Christian-freedom issues. (35)

One way or another, you must communicate with your words, your tone, even your body language, that “You can disagree with me, and our fellowship and friendship will in no way be jeopardized. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.” . . . In fact, by acknowledging that an issue is a Christian-freedom issue, you should be able to say to yourself, “I don’t need to discuss this, and my Christian fellowship with this person who disagrees with me will remain as strong as ever.” You should be able, as it were, to change the subject. (36)

If you are able to admit to yourself that people in your church should not be removed from membership for disagreeing with you, then you must practice love and forbearance. You might be right, and they might be wrong, but you must practice love and forbearance. Your political judgment does not reach either a sufficient level of biblical clarity or a level of moral significance to make it a whole-church issue. So loosen your grip and lower the emotional temperature. Being able to do this, when the occasion calls for it, is a sign of Christian maturity. (37)

Too often we fail to realize how our political conversations as Christians should be different than the political conversations of non-Christians. Non-Christians can tell you exactly what they think. Christians can too, but the crucial difference is that Christians can also tell you—on some political topics—what God thinks. We have his Book. He has revealed himself. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Yet a huge danger looms. We get into a political argument in which we’re telling someone what we think. But we also have a Bible in our hands, and so we begin to blur the lines between what we think and what God thinks. (44)

Don’t assume that anyone who is stricter than you is legalistic or that anyone who is freer than you is licentious. When you are convinced that a certain political strategy is just, you may be tempted to treat it as a matter of first importance, but that would be a grave mistake because it would imply that those who disagree with you on that issue cannot be Christians. (52) 

Jagged-line issues should not be so important to you that they’re all you want to talk about. (52)

Sometimes the best way to critique the present system and to resist the false worship that so much of politics demands is simply to talk about something else. (54)

As the culture presses hard against the church, unfaithful compromise will always be one threat. Yet Mark Dever has observed that there is another threat that conservative Christians should watch out for: balkanization, or dividing into a hundred pieces. One Christian says we “must” this; another that we “must” that; a third calling down curses on both houses, along with a fourth, fifth, and sixth insisting on their own directions. Like the Balkans in the 1990s, each subnation inside the nation goes to war against the others. (56)

Our goal in this booklet has not been to tell you how to respond to any given ethical dilemma (“Do I vote for him or for her?”). Instead, it’s to help you know how to respond to those who vote or believe differently, to learn how to make at least some space for them, and to encourage you toward charity and forbearance. (57)

When fellow church members celebrate Bible teachings that are of first importance, jagged-line issues shouldn’t overthrow the riches of the truths that we love, live for, and would die for. (57)

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