Dear Reverend Franklin Graham and Pastor Robert Jeffress (and many of us Christians),
I see that you love Jesus, but I’m concerned about your apparent love of partisan politics. Please stop promoting the President and endorsing the Republican party, but choose instead to focus on promoting Jesus and endorsing His Word. Love on and pray for both parties and endorse neither. Each partisan political statement you make diminishes and dampens your Gospel reach and impact. True and lasting change is not found in the power or influence of a politician or a party. Gospel power transforms in ways that governments never can, so please stop compromising and limiting your Christian witness. You can better use your platform to speak biblical truth and to show Jesus’ love across party lines if you communicate in a non-partisan manner.
- Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (ESV)
Stop Politicking. Most of us have gotten sucked into the drama of politics. We need to be more biblical and less political. I write this openly and publicly, because the message is not only to you, but for me and for every pastor. This advice is not just for us pastors, but for all of us who identify as followers of Jesus. Our partisan political involvement is having a negative gospel impact. People are not hearing our spiritual Good News because they are deafened and distracted by the political news we are promoting with a self-righteous spirit. Martin Lloyd-Jones explained it well that “a demonstration of great interest in political and social matters never succeed in attracting people to Christianity.” We have a higher calling. Put the humble beauty of Jesus in front of us and move away from the ugly arrogance of modern politics.
- 1 Peter 5:5 “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Quit Playing Party Politics. I need this reminder about my ultimate allegiance. You should hear this. We should not be partisan Republicans, Democrats, or any other political party. As Tim Keller shares, “The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.” We are called to talk about Jesus to both sides and not isolate our audience with our political dispositions and opinions. We cannot present a distorted view of Christianity that identifies the Christian faith with a particular political party. Christian nationalism in America is advertising that one must vote Republican or you are not really a Christian. Republicans are now unlikely to hear about Jesus from Democrats and Democrats probably will not hear about Jesus from Republicans. This compromise of our Gospel witness should disturb us.
Franklin, We all would do well to heed the sage advice of your parents. Your dad, Billy Graham, wisely shared that “evangelicals can’t be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle, to preach to all the people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will in the future.” Your mom, Ruth Graham, responded to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s request for political advice from your dad with boldness and clarity saying, “Billy ought to limit his advice to you to religious and spiritual matters.”
We need to stop our public political flag waiving, skip political rallies, put down our posters, remove our campaign hats, and pull out our yard signs. People don’t need our polarizing and biased opinions, they need the truth of our King Jesus. Our hope, passions, resources, and focus should be prioritized on the return of the King of Kings and not on the next election cycle. Our identity is in Jesus not in our party affiliation. Put the Kingdom of God in front of the kingdom of man.
- 2 Timothy 2:4 “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
You Have Lost Perspective. I’ve lost focus at times too. We’ve put too much trust in manmade systems. Partisan politics are man-created forms of pollution that cloud out the deeper and more urgent realities. Governments offer nationalistic hope and purpose, and are God-ordained for our good, but can never fully deliver on their promises. The world doesn’t need to hear about our party affiliation or our political endorsements, so don’t tweet and post like they do. We can take a stand on issues in a biblically nonpartisan manner. We must avoid being labeled by (or identifying as) a particular political party whenever possible. Put eternal hope in front of us instead of hope in the next set of polls.
- Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Acknowledge Your Hypocrisy and Hatred. We’ve all played the hypocrite and spoken unkindly towards those different than us. It may not be intentional but it is a reality nonetheless for all of us. We are all more blind to our predispositions and biases than we realize. We often sin similarly to those we critique. The world doesn’t need our snarkiness or sarcasm. They need our love. We should be gentle and kind with our “opponents.”
If we lend our public endorsement of a politician or party, then we should commit to consistently speak to the seriousness of their sin and future failures as well. John Calvin, when teaching about John the Baptist’s confrontation of King Herod, explains that “John has thus, by his example, furnished an undoubted rule for pious teachers, not to wink at the faults of princes, so as to purchase their favor at this price, how advantageous soever that favor might appear to be to the public interests.” We must not overlook the sin of some while attacking the sin of others. Moral inconsistency is hypocrisy.
Our countrymen need our meekness, love, and prayers. We can engage those we disagree with compassionate conviction but we must be consistent across the political spectrum. Put a humble peacemaking spirit in front of us in place of argumentative arrogance.
- 1 Timothy 2:8 “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling”
You Are Being Manipulated. I’ve been co-opted too. We all have been used. We may not realize it but while politicking we are frequently being maneuvered like a pawn by savvy press and powerful politicians. When we publicly jump on a political band-wagon we will likely travel further than we ought to ride. We need to dismount and follow Jesus more closely instead of getting visibly sidetracked by earthly matters. Put God’s platform in front of us and push away governmental partisanship.
- Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”
You Aren’t As Right As You Think You Are. I am not either. None of us are. We often think too highly of ourselves. The more we speak, the greater potential we have to sin. In the complex day and age we live in, it is difficult to speak to all of the platforms, policies, and issues accurately and comprehensively. We are typically misinformed, under-informed, imbalanced, partial, and overwhelmed. We need to behold the biblical truth more than we notice the national news. Very few of us have the ability and humility to speak well publicly to the many issues filling our feeds. Put biblical truth in front of us in lieu of human opinions.
- 1 Corinthians 3:7 “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
You Can’t Fix This Nation. Neither can I. None of us can. Only Jesus is able. Often we think and talk like we are more important and capable than we actually are. Partisan politics makes life about us when life is actually about God: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. We are His mouthpiece to the world. We need to stick to His truth. We need to be faithful to the time He has given us. We need to prioritize Jesus in our lives, our love, and our hope. We need to remember the primary need of our society is not a political victory, but a spiritual victory in Christ.
- James 3:13–15 “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
Christians, we need quit our partisan politicking but not our political engagement. It’s not too late to change. We can do better. There is a way to engage our culture without compromising our Gospel witness. Tim Keller explains that “while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one.” Here are some guidelines that may help us all in the future.
12 Rules of Political Engagement for Christians
1. God First - God’s truth is always above man’s opinions. Reevaluate your political positions with the Bible in hand.
2. Others Second - We must put the needs of others before our own agendas. We can better love our neighbors with tangible actions rather than just trusting in our cast ballot.
3. Self Less - We need humility in all our communications and attitudes. Before we post or speak we should consider the tone and approach we choose. Our daily decisions should demonstrate a care for those different than us.
4. Default to Non-Partisan - Unless our profession requires it, most Christians should strongly consider the wisdom of being publicly nonpartisan. In these divisive times it may be best to stay away from partisan political posts, rallies, posters, yard signs, and headgear.
5. Your Vote Is Important - You have the responsibility and privilege to be politically informed and go to the polls whenever you have the opportunity.
6. Private Persuasion Is Often Better - Some issues deserve our public discussion and commentary. More may be gained through private, personal conversations without the rhetoric found in many public forums.
7. Humble & Respectful Disagreement - We are all created in the image of God. We ought to speak kindly to all with the reminder that no-one is beyond the life-changing hope of Christ. We must love our political “enemies.”
8. Avoid Absolutes - Recognize our temptation towards sound bites and the demonization of others. Avoid over-simplifying situations and categorizing groups with stereotypes.
9. Pray More than You Speak - We often fall into the trap of believing that our voices to mankind make a bigger difference than our prayers to the Creator of the Universe. Prayer is our primary political calling.
10. Share the Gospel More than Your Political Persuasions - Elections and governments come and go. True and lasting hope is only found in the Kingdom of God through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Live and speak in light of these priorities. Be more passionate about winning souls than winning arguments or elections.
11. Resist as a Last Resort - Rare biblical and historical examples exist to show and prepare us for times where courageous rebellion is called for in order to remain faithful to God. The broad biblical guidance is to honor and submit to the authorities whenever possible.
12. The 1% Exception - Although 99-ish% of us should probably be nonpartisan monarchists (prioritizing the Kingdom of God), 1% of us may be called by God into service within a partisan political sphere. If that is you, please stay faithful to God’s truths in your policies and platforms no matter the personal cost. Speak to the good, without flattery or partiality, in both parties. Confront the bad, with love and humility, in both parties. Practice the fruits of the Holy Spirit at all times towards your political opponents talking with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
Christians, we can do better. Let’s love on and pray for those we disagree with.
Jonathan Carl, A Monarchist Pastor Waiting for the King of Kings to Return and Make All Things New
1 Timothy 2:1–2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
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White House photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash