It’s an unsettling world, isn’t it? I’m sure many of you will agree with me that the America of today is not the one in which we were raised. Of all the changes, one of the most starkly obvious is the divisive nature of current politics: It seems that not even Christians can rally around any one political point of view in full agreement.
However, no matter which side of the political spectrum you align yourself with, there are some important things every Christian should keep in mind when considering current events, both in our country and abroad. Proverbs has some great wisdom that today’s Christian citizen should heed in these confusing times of cultural and socio-political disagreement.
1.Shut Your Mouth
Oh, Proverbs is rich with advice about keeping your mouth shut! If there’s nothing else you remember, remember this! Proverbs 13 says it very succinctly: He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.
Or how about this one? Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
I’ve seen (and to my shame, participated) so many online arguments that consist of nothing but foolishness poured out on either side. It does nothing but engender strife.
What’s worse, I’ve seen so much misinformation spread like fire throughout the internet because no one stops to consider the wisdom or foolishness of the words they are repeating. If you have nothing wise to say, then say nothing.
But there is a time to speak! We’ll get to that in a bit.
2.But Open Your Ears (and Eyes)
The old advice is to avoid bringing up politics and religion when in company. That’s still true, but it’s impossible to avoid hot topics in this social media world. Some people try to by blocking anyone who disagrees with them, and while that can be helpful for one’s blood pressure, I think there are distinct disadvantages to that course of action.
For one, we can learn from each other, according to this proverb: Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Avoiding people who disagree with you means you lose out on the ability to sharpen your own understanding. My husband and I personally keep people of opposing views in our social media news feeds so that we can be aware of perspectives besides our own.
For another, I disagree with the oft-repeated statement that “Nobody’s mind was ever changed by a post or argument on Facebook.” As a matter of fact, conversations and information shared by friends on Facebook has been a distinct influence on my opinion over the years. Social media can broaden your ability to crowd-source, and deepen your understanding of a topic simply because it brings together people with varying perspectives and levels of expertise. In my opinion, social media is merely an extension of real-life communication: if conversing about current topics with friends and experts in real life improves your understanding, then it can do the same on social media.
Departing from Proverbs for a moment, the words of James are timely here: Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. Whether conversing in real life or online, it’s important to remember to listen and hear much more than you speak. Don’t just be rushing to make yourself heard; take time to hear the other person out.
The book of Proverbs begins with this advice: A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels. This advice is largely disregarded in the political climate of today. People get their news in quick soundbites and headlines from social media, or blurbs on the radio during their commute. This Twitter-like news has a devastating effect: we get all wrapped up and bent out of shape about one issue or another when we have no full understanding of it whatsoever.
Proverbs 15 says: The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.
And Proverbs 12 says: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
Before we decide on any issue (and definitely before we vent our spleen over it!), we need to be sure we understand it fully. That requires taking the time to study it from all perspectives: Biblical, historical, cultural, and socio-political. A Facebook meme, while pithy, is not going to give you the information you need to determine the right and the wrong of an issue, or to decide what is true and what is false.
And according to this proverb, the greater your understanding, the less likely you are to blow off your top at someone who disagrees with you: He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. I think that’s because a conclusion arrived at logically and studiously lacks the fervor of an emotionally driven passion about a topic, but is a lot stronger and sturdier.
When confronted by political behavior that angers you, take the time to make sure you understand fully what is going on, then decide what, if any, course of action you should take.
Sometimes taking action might mean sharing with interested people (or even your captive social media audience) what you have learned so that more people have the knowledge necessary to know how to act. Again, iron sharpens iron, and we all learn from each other!
But sometimes you might have to go farther than that. This wisdom is from Proverbs 11: Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. If you have wisdom to offer those in authority, then give them your counsel. In our system of government, we all have access to our representatives and can share wisdom with them as circumstances require.
Even more to the point is this proverb: By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. The wicked are loud and seem to drown out the sound of the righteous more and more every day. It’s imperative that we speak up when wisdom and righteousness are on our side!
We also are blessed to have a government in which we can fully participate! Every single American citizen reading this blog post right now has the potential to be an active participant in our representative government. Don’t forget that “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”
As Christians, we must take our responsibility seriously to do our best to ensure that the righteous truly are in authority.
5.Trust & Pray
The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)
Many seek the ruler’s favour; but every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD. (Proverbs 29:26)
These proverbs tell me that God uses kings (and presidents, and cabinets, Congress, and courts) to carry out His will. We can trust that God’s plan is good, even when we don’t understand it.
These proverbs also tell me, that as a people who have the ear of God, we can affect the decisions of the decision-makers by appealing to our God.