Separation amongst Christians over theological disagreements is as old as Christianity itself. For those of us in the Protestant tradition, we are the first to defend the freedom for, and the necessity of, Christians to sometimes break fellowship with those who we think have compromised the Gospel message or misunderstood indispensable teachings in the Bible.
Political disagreements are a different matter. Yes, some political issues reach the same level as disputes over the essentials of the faith (which I will make very clear). Still, given Christians’ appropriate insistence that we be biblical in all that we do, sometimes we can be tempted to turn truly disputable political issues into a test of orthodoxy.
“What! You don’t agree with me that all taxation is theft? Are you even a Christian?”
Don’t be like that.
Now, it is good and right to zealously defend the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). But political parties, platforms, and policies are not divinely inspired.
So how can Christians avoid “majoring in the minors” when it comes to politics? Here are three suggestions.
One of the best ways to ensure that Christians can have godly disagreements about secondary or tertiary political issues (the minors) is to make sure we draw bright red lines around the issues that Christians simply cannot, in keeping with God’s Word, differ on (the majors).
At least three issues (but maybe more) rise to this level in modern American politics: 1) The sanctity of unborn life, 2) the nature of marriage, and 3) the immutable and unchangeable reality of God-given sex and gender.
The Bible is perfectly clear — every unborn baby is fully human, an image bearer of God Most High, and deserves equal protection under the law. Psalm 139 teaches us all that life in the womb is a precious, wonderful gift from God and is the product of His handiwork: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The political implication of this truth is that all abortion is murder, full stop. It is a direct violation of the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
You cannot claim the name of Christ and advocate for the “freedom” to slaughter unborn children in the womb. To be a “pro-choice Christian” is a contradiction of terms. You can be “pro-choice” or you can be a Christian.
The Bible makes similar claims about marriage. Marriage always has, and will only ever be, between one man and one woman. Jesus affirms this in Matthew 19:4-6:
“‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Like the nature of unborn life, the nature of marriage is not up for debate. It doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court says, God’s good design stands higher still. As such, Christians cannot ever compromise on marriage. And anyone who tries to argue that they can compromise on this in the political realm should be rightly viewed as operating out of a sinful, non-Christian framework.
Finally, being a faithful Christian in politics means defending the truth that there are only two genders. Genesis 1:27 teaches us that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Male and female — that is all anyone can or will ever be from conception. Men cannot become women, and women cannot become men. On this issue, there is no middle ground.
Drawing these clear lines helps ensure cooperation on genuinely disputable matters, which can indeed occur. But if a professing Christian supports abortion, homosexual marriage, or transgenderism then it is our responsibility to make this known — they are in direct obedience to God’s good design and His Holy Word and their political positions are sinful.
Okay, let’s imagine that you and a fellow believer agree on the “Big Three” listed above but have sharp disagreements on other political issues like American foreign policy, tax rates, infrastructure spending, or the pros and cons of classical liberalism. Each of you might be able to make a strong, biblically informed case as to why your position is the more faithful one for a Christian to hold. What now?
Here is a verse to keep in mind:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”–Romans 12:18
Again, peace must never be prioritized over the truth. But on far more debatable matters like taxes or even the wisdom of American involvement in the war in Ukraine, Christians must be careful that they don’t claim to have a monopoly on the truth when they very well may not. “Thou shall not murder” is crystal clear, a command with immediately evident implication. “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is a command as well, but it doesn’t answer the question, “How much should Caesar be demanding that I render?” See the difference?
Christians must be able to work alongside other Christians in the political arena even if they have sharp disagreements on political policies that fall inside of the bucket of secondary issues. If we can’t, we will be infinitely divided. What good will that do for the country? Not much.
Finally, Christians must remember that only God is the Lord of the conscience. This means we must have an operable category of “Christian liberty.” Whatever God commands, we must do. Whatever God forbids, we must not do. But on all the many and various areas of the Christian life, including some matters pertaining to politics, we won’t find explicit “dos” or “do nots.” In such cases, we leave room for differently calibrated consciences and the exercise of Christian liberty.
In other words, you should be able to be fellow church members with a believer who thinks that Social Security eligibility should be lowered to 60 years of age, even if you think such a move would be fiscally irresponsible.
An old quote reminds us that Christians should adopt a posture of “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
Ask yourself, then, how are you doing in the unity, liberty, and charity departments? Where unity is required, such as Christian opposition to abortion, don’t hesitate to plant a flag. Where liberty is needed, give liberty. And in both cases, show charity. The testimony of a politically active Christian should be one of love — love for God and love for neighbor.
If we keep these two greatest commandments, then we will major in the major, minor in the minors, and God will be glorified — and that is the most important thing we can ever do.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.