An angle that few if any seem to take is to examine the issue from the perspective of overall church unity. It just so happens that I am guiding my church through 1 Corinthians in this modern situational context; so church unity is obviously on the brain. Two questions emerge: (1) Can you have spiritual unity without political unity? and (2) What does preserving spiritual unity look like in such a politically divisive age?
Can you have spiritual unity without political unity?
Doesn't it depend? You may have a congregation that is apathetic about politics as a whole. I have never led such a church, but I'm sure they are out there. In my first pastorate, I had a state senator - even presided over his memorial with the NC General Assembly in attendance. He had mostly friends and a few political foes in the church. Here's what I have found. The closer the issues in an election come to biblical principles, the more vocal church people become about their political stances at church. This connection dictates the likelihood of being able to achieve spiritual unity without political unity.
If that feels obvious, consider the following issue as just one example. I had a seminary professor who personally contacted every candidate on a ballot in any race with this question: "I am an one issue voter. What is your stance on abortion?" He would not cast a vote for a candidate who was not solidly pro life. If your church observes Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and teaches that abortion is murder, any pro choice members you have will undermine your spiritual unity. There are churches that will demonstrate peacefully in front of abortion clinics. Churches commonly will support ministries that offer abortion alternatives such as adoption and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. In recent days, I have heard of people leaving churches over this issue. Where there is disagreement on this issue, your church will likely stop short of achieving New Testament unity.
Experience causes me to lean toward saying no - you cannot have spiritual unity in your church without political unity. It's more than just issues and personality. As I type this, the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives is pursuing an impeachment inquiry against the Republican President. You must have noticed that our societal context has deteriorated to a point where people with different politics can barely be in the same room as one another. Imagine trying to do servant evangelism when politics comes up in small talk. Since we cannot ignore political divisions for spiritual reasons, what about that next question?
What does preserving spiritual unity look like?
Here are a few suggestions:
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.