This election season has been one for the books. The results so far have taken many of us by surprise. It’s also brought out fear, anxiety, and a great deal of tension. I am certain that we will experience the effects of this election season for years to come. But what I wonder (and fear) is that our political responses, discussions, and beliefs might do damage to dear relationships. At the end of 2016, will we see carnage from the battle of political ideologies and differing opinions among brothers and sisters in Christ? Will those of us who were united in friendship become enemies as a result? Is it possible that we can disagree and still continue to love one another or is this where our paths diverge from each other?
There are times when dear and God-fearing friends do part ways. We know the story of Paul and Barnabas. After Saul’s conversion, he attempted to join the disciples but because they still feared him and didn’t trust that he was indeed a disciple they distanced themselves (Acts. 9:26). Barnabas, however, took him in and began to share all that Saul had done in the name of Jesus (Acts. 9:27). Barnabas and Saul (also called Paul) began to minister together. They were friends, close friends. But eventually, like we see so often, the two disagreed and parted ways (Acts 15:36-41).
Friends parting ways is not uncommon and may indeed be justified in certain situations. There is wisdom in evaluating our friendships. We do not want to be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). All one needs to do is search the Scriptures to see warning after warning against bad friends (Prov. 16:28; Prov. 22: 24-25; Prov. 13:20, etc.). So, it’s good and right to evaluate friendships and even challenge a friend if he seems to have strayed from the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:11).
But I wonder if more often our actions are selfish and self-righteous. Are we ready to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things this election season (1 Cor. 13:7)? When we open our Internet browsers and see something we disagree with on social media—are we going to assume the absolute worst about our brother or sister? What are we going to do when we learn that our friend voted for someone we completely disagree with? We can indeed challenge each other, but out of love and not hate or anger.
I don’t want to give power where power is not due. This election is not what will divide and destroy us. We will. This election is revealing our hearts and what we believe to be true about God and our fellow man. We must be ready to love and forgive where needed. Whoever is elected won’t care a wit about our local churches and our organizations and our neighbors and whether or not they have been damaged. They won’t know. We will be the ones left to clean up the mess. We will have to stand once again with one another. My prayer is that we’re not left in a wasteland of friendships destroyed.
May I plead with you not to abandon your friend? Engage with them; disagree even, but wait before disowning or running away. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Be that friend. The coming days will undoubtedly be filled with much pain and confusion. My prayer is that we’d be the Church. And that those who look in will know that we are His disciples because of our love for one another (John 13:35). This election season will divide our culture. The Church can reveal something different – the unifying power of the Gospel. This will take the power of God and His Spirit. God can show us, if needed, where we have been tempted to self-righteousness and abandonment. He can and will give us the wisdom and strength to be faithful to one another.