Trump or Hillary. Republican or Democrat. Conservative, liberal, traditionalist, progressive. Pro-life or pro-choice. Closed borders or open. What comes to your mind when such buzzwords are mentioned around you?
We live in a highly polarized and divided society when it comes to politics, religion, race, and sex. And perhaps especially in today’s social-media world, we immediately make certain assumptions about a person based on an article shared, tweet sent out, picture posted, or status updated.
“The way we will live distinctively in a hostile society is to begin with just how lost we once were.”
We all have fallen into the trap of assuming the worst of others by labeling them “liberals” or “conservatives,” “progressives” or “traditionalists.” Our assumptions lead to heated (and useless) debates online, often with people we have never met. Others choose to remain silent and disengage altogether because of all the off-putting and polarizing noise.
Live and Disagree Differently
But how are Christians supposed to respond within an argumentative and divisive society? Paul faced a similar situation while writing to a son in the faith named Titus, who lived on the island of Crete, known for its rebellion, greed, deception, immorality, laziness, and unruly living (Titus 1:10–16). Knowing that several churches were being planted there, the apostle reminds Titus to instruct the Christians to live differently, to set themselves apart in such a hostile and debauched people.
First, Paul reminds Christians to be model citizens in regards to their attitude toward and obedience to the government (Titus 3:1). There are times and seasons we must disobey the government when it conflicts with our obedience to God (Acts 5:29). We are never to give ultimate and blind allegiance to the state because our first allegiance must be reserved exclusively for King Jesus.
However, Christians should, in principle, give the government honor and respect because the government’s authority has been given to them by God himself — whether or not we like a political candidate (Romans 13:1–7). Our behavior should not be marked by rebellion and riots, but by godly submission and obedience.
Not only are Christians to model excellent, Christ-exalting citizenship, but they are “to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1–2). Christians are the most eager and zealous to do good works for others, because we have experienced what God has done for us (Titus 2:11–15). Christians should “speak evil of no one” by avoiding slander (literally “blaspheming”) and demonizing a person or a political candidate when we disagree with him (online or in person).
“God did not save us because of our political party, social activism, or upright living.”
We are called to be agents of grace, avoiding quarrels and endless debates, because it often leads to unprofitable discussions and unnecessary hurt feelings. We are to “show perfect courtesy toward all people” not by painting them in the worst possible light, but by showing them “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1).
Remember Your Past
What gives us the motivation to live like this? Paul reminds Christians that the way we will live distinctively in a hostile society is to begin with just how lost we once were (Titus 3:3).
In other words, there was a time we lived as if God didn’t exist, rebelled against his gracious rule, were deceived, being mastered by our own desires and wants at the expense of others, and lived as if we deserved everything good, while despising the good of others. This heart of sin led to a life of hatred whenever someone kept us from what we wanted. Christians do not respond with unkind attitudes or harsh speech, because we realize we have been saved from that sin — and because we know that would still be us apart from grace.
Remembering our dark and hopeless history reminds us to be humble and kind towards those with whom we disagree.
Remember Your Salvation
Finally, the key to living distinctly in societies like our own is to rehearse the beauty and majesty of our salvation. It was the goodness and loving kindness (literally, “love of humanity”) that appeared in the person of Jesus Christ that motivates this type of love (Titus 3:4).
“Grace and mercy will outshine the hostility and argumentative culture of our day.”
God saved us “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5). He did not save us because of our political party, or our political activism, or even our upright living. It was the kindness and mercy of God alone that saved us and then made us into the type of people who live, and love, and disagree differently — only through the divine initiative of our patient God, the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Spirit, and the substitutionary death of our Savior.
If our lives testify in any way large or small to the stunning beauty of our rescue, then we will begin to outshine the hostility and argumentative dialogue of our day (Titus 3:4–8).
Because of God’s mercy, we can show the world a better way.