Someone asked me if I thought Christians were happy about the election. I immediately responded, “yes!” And then I added, “but in some ways, I HOPE NOT.”
What if they won the election but lost the campaign? Let me explain.
Words sooth. They incite. They build. They destroy. They express love. They express hate. They have the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21). Is there anything more powerful than infusing life or imposing death?
God used words to speak everything into existence. He could have used His hand, a magical wand, or any means He desired, but He chose to speak words. In other words (no pun intended), words brought things into existence that did not previously exist. Not just the creation of physical matter but the creation of relational beings…mankind.
Where do words come from? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. You might say, out of the emotion/affections/demeanor of the heart, the words come forth. That is why the tone (spirit) accompanying words generally speaks more loudly than the meaning of the words themselves. Someone can say with a hateful tone, “I love you,” and it can feel more like a negative comment than a positive one. And vice-versa. That is why a “soft” answer turns away wrath…because it is not the meaning of the words as much as the tone of the words that can even affect the behavior of others.
Winning Isn’t Everything
Why talk about this topic? Because both the words and the tone of this election season are bringing (or fueling) things into existence that are ugly. Very unchristian.
Perhaps that is why James says we must understand something: Not just some of us but “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” There is a connection between how we listen, how we talk, and our emotional outcome. I do not know anyone who is quick to listen and slow to speak who is also an angry person. Do you?
As “evangelicals,” we cannot allow interruptive listening and rhetorical speech to rule the day. WE MUST NOT PARTICIPATE in that kind of communication. And WE CANNOT BE PERCEIVED TO APPROVE of those who exhibit such. Why? The foremost reason is because it is direct disobedience to a command in scripture (James 1:19). But also, it does not portray the fruit of the Spirit. It does not promote a grace- centered gospel. In summary, it is sin. And sin always slows and even disempowers the spread of the gospel.
A close Christian friend asked me this past Wednesday morning, “How do I talk with a friend who did not know if they could move on in life if Trump won the election?” Unbridled rhetoric and dogmatism fostered fear in this individual’s heart. They were not alone. Women. Illegal immigrants (strangers). Muslims, Mexicans. Many woke up Wednesday morning, with echoes of threatening words hurled at them with seemingly no sensitivity.
The ungodly and undignified rhetoric of the campaign may be looked upon as good election strategy (though, I do not think it is), but it is rooted in pride and an unteachable spirit. Verse 20 tells us it leads to anger and “human [man’s] anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” In fact, what we see happening on both sides of the aisle (streets) in America is a whole lot of unrighteousness.
Winning hearts is more important than winning elections.
What Advice Would You Give…?
What did I advise my friend? I told her to “reverse the rhetoric.” Because words have the power to heal…not just destroy. Right now, in the midst of division, we of all people must use the power of words to heal.
Did you notice how both the gentle words and humble tone of the post-election speeches given by Trump, Clinton, and Obama have in some measure turned away anger? If we endured an 18-month campaign of slander and corrupt speech, it may also take 18 months or longer to tear down the relational wall that has been erected between the two ideologies. It needs to be a priority and it can be done. Practically, here is what I suggest:
1. Seek forgiveness from God and others if you have in any way actively or passively endorsed the slanderous use of words.
2. Genuinely pray for all people affected by the election and not just some people. Ask God to help them (I Tim. 2:1).
3. Pray for all those in authority (not just those you agree with) so that we can live a peaceful and quiet life marked by godliness and dignity (I Tim. 2:2).
4. Realize the ultimate purpose of our prayers is that everyone would come to Christ and understand the truth (I Tim. 2:4).
5. Be Teachable. Take time to listen with the goal of understanding. Oftentimes love and respect is best expressed through listening and understanding.
6. Ask questions. Questions appeal to the conscience and accusations harden the will.
7. Trade Places. Put yourself in their shoes. What if a candidate who was threatening to deport Christians (instead of Muslims) was elected to the highest office in our land?
8. Affirm where possible. Reassure people, where applicable, that their concerns are legitimate. For example, as a believer, we cannot endorse Donald Trump, but we can endorse the platform that is most aligned with the Judeo-Christian worldview and principles.
9. Be a servant. Serve them as a means of expressing care for them. It is hard to share until we care.
10. Have as your ultimate goal that your friend asks you about the hope that you have. And be ready to give them the answer (I Peter 3:15).
So how do we restore unity? Reverse the rhetoric.
But can’t words feel so superficial? No doubt. UNLESS the tone is one of humility, teachability, brokenness, and repentance.
So, President-elect Trump and Secretary Clinton, I would suggest you begin on step one and seek forgiveness from God. And then, prayerfully, write and deliver the most important speech you may ever give. Here is a sample speech that I would suggest, written by Mark DeMoss, who is CEO of a premier public relations firm in our nation. It was published as a lead story by USA Today.
The Executive Branch could use a good Public Relations Campaign right now. And maybe both parties could even reach across the aisle on this one. It could be called “Healing Words Matter Campaign.”
Because this is the message we all need to hear.