Up until my early 20s, I felt that my religious beliefs mandated particular political views. This wasn’t challenged at church. The only people around me who spoke about politics were universally conservative. Whether they intended this or not, the lesson I received was that the gospel required certain stances on certain issues and policies.
This created challenges as I got to know a wider variety of people, particularly as a missionary in Australia. Naturally, the politics there are different. Talking politics wasn’t part of my mission, but it was clear that members of the church there held some views that didn’t jive with what I’d learned. When I returned home I continued to meet fellow disciples of Christ who undermined my linear thinking.
Something had to give. Either my conclusions about the gospel and politics were wrong or I had to consider these people apostates – people who had abandoned the truth.
And so, I put away childish things. I realized that being a follower of Christ does not mandate a certain political approach. But there are two things it does mandate.
I must love my neighbor. This has become easier as I’ve chosen not to think of those with political differences as apostates or unbelievers. They simply have a different opinion, based on their different experiences in life. I can learn from them, rather than oppose and fight them.
It is also easier to love God. I can set aside the human barriers between him and me. Another person’s political beliefs simply don’t tell me anything about God. I learn about Him through prayer and thoughtful study, not through the current political stance of any person or group.
I understand now that the gospel transcends human parties and allegiances. It is possible that no human-proposed policy is in line by the gospel. Jesus is not Republican or Democrat. He is not conservative or liberal. He is not socialist or capitalist. His ways are not our ways.
Does this mean I think all policy approaches are valid?
Do I think that certain approaches are superior?
My passion for issues can still be a barrier to loving others. I still find myself judging them for their honest beliefs. But this shift in perspective has helped make the glass through which I see a little less dark.