How to handle politics, religion, and criticism without getting distracted

To say politics have been front and center in 2019 is an understatement. Presidential debates fill the news, and the political ads show no sign of stopping between now and next November.

With name-calling coming from both sides, it's easy to get lost in all the noise. While we're trying to keep up with the latest opinions and insults, we tend to neglect the things that deserve our attention most.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. - Colossians 3:2

When followers of Jesus are consumed by political scuffles, we lose sight of who we are and what we're meant to do. The church's mission is to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

Politics can pull us away from that mission by causing us to confuse our own version of good news with the good news about Jesus. So how do we stay focused on the mission Jesus gave us? How do we participate in shaping our communities without getting caught up in political rhetoric?

Reject Divisive Politics

Politics are important. Public policy shapes the culture we live in, but it cannot change our hearts. If we argue convince someone to change their mind, but their heart does not belong to Jesus, then nothing of eternal significance has happened. 

Don't get caught up in what Christians should believe or how Christians should vote. Satan seeks to divide, but Jesus seeks to unite (Galatians 5:16-26). 

Share what Jesus has done in your life and stay focused on the Gospel. Our is not to win people to a political party, but to be an ambassador for Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20). If another person insists on bringing up how a church’s beliefs don’t line up with their own, listen quietly and then point the conversation back to Jesus.

Remember, gentle and gracious words drive away anger (Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 16:24).

Reframe Your Religious Practices

Too often, Christians expect those who don't follow Jesus to live by the same standards they do. How easy it is to forget where we came from ourselves!

Religion has traditionally said, "If behave then you can believe, and then, if you're lucky. we'll let you belong." The Gospel says, "Belong first. As you belong, we believe you'll believe. Then, as you keep your heart open to the Holy Spirit, you'll learn how to behave."

Without Christ, we all are separated from God and do not have the ability to live a “good” life (Romans 3:10). Our salvation is a gift we received, not a status we earned (Ephesians 2:9). So rather than trying to modify someone else's behavior, let's focus on living a life worth imitating. 

Focus on living a life worth imitating. 

In Christ, we have access to the freedom and joy others crave. How much impact could we have if we showed grace, kindness, and hospitality to everyone we meet, not just those who follow the same set of beliefs?

React to Critics with Kindness

Criticism is a part of life, but don’t let this discourage you. Constructive criticism is a valuable tool for those who are helping us follow Jesus and do better work. However, antagonistic critics don’t often want a civil discussion; they usually want to cause trouble or feel they have the upper hand in a situation. Remind yourself the best response is not to react with hurt feelings or a quick temper, but with love.

The most powerful way to interact with someone opposing you is to express radical kindness. Jesus even tells us, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus does not need our defense, but He has asked us to love others no matter what.

Don’t be distracted by critics that seek to pull you off course. Your steadfast love in the midst of criticism may be your greatest witness.

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