The presidential campaign has left our country scarred, angry and polarized.
The United States is anything but united right now. So how should followers of Jesus respond to this?
Jesus said you will know his followers by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20), not by their political party. You will know them by the positive impact of their words and actions.
Paul the apostle gives us deeper insight into what Jesus meant: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
When the Holy Spirit controls a person’s life, good things happen. Beauty is unleashed; healthy relationships are developed.
Paul contrasts the fruit of the spirit (when the spirit controls one’s life) with the works of the flesh (when the spirit does not control one’s life) in Galatians 5:19-21.
Notice how many of these works relate to conflict and unhealthy relationships: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Over half of the 15 works of the flesh cause conflict and rupture relationships: “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy.”
This sounds like our post-election environment in both camps.
I realize followers of Jesus voted for both candidates. We make political decisions based on multiple factors, so this is natural.
But at this time in our history, we need the supernatural. We need a touch of the divine to heal our wounds and restore our relationships.
We overcome “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy” when the peace-producing Holy Spirit controls our lives.
In Romans 14, Paul writes to a church divided by different views of the ideal Christian life: “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Today, Paul would say the kingdom of God is not about being a Democrat or a Republican but about righteousness, peace and joy.
And the context of division in the church indicates that the righteousness and peace Paul talks about does not refer to personal piety but social conduct.
However, manifesting the fruit of the spirit doesn’t mean we compromise our values or views. In fact, Romans 14 also says we hold on to our convictions before God (see verses 5, 12, 22).
In other words, we can hold strong views and yet be civil in our interaction. Anything less falls short of kingdom life.
The election is over. It’s time to stop talking about why our candidate is the best for our country. It’s time to reach out to friends and acquaintances in our social networks who differ from us.
It’s time to start healing the divided states of America – by demonstrating the fruit of the spirit.
You will know followers of Jesus by their fruits.
Rick Love is the president of Peace Catalyst International and author of “Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities.” A version of this article first appeared on the Peace Catalyst blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @drricklove.