Last week, political commentator Denise Gitsham talked to the Daily Citizen about becoming a representative for Christ in politics.
But how can believers obey Jesus’ command to love their neighbors while under attack from political enemies?
Gitsham answers this question and more in her new book Politics for People Who Hate Politics, which offers Christians practical advice for engaging in an exhausting political climate.
The following is an edited portion of the Daily Citizen’s conversation with Gitsham about taking offense, being offensive, and what it means to speak the truth in love.
Daily Citizen: What is the spirit of offense, and how is it different from being offended?
Gitsham: The spirit of offense is something we tend to take on. John Bevere does the best job of [explaining] this in his book, The Bait of Satan, which is all about how offense traps us.
There’s nothing wrong with being offended. All we can do is ask for more grace to not be offensive back — and scripture makes that really clear.
But choosing to stay offended is a decision that we make. Allowing [the spirit of offense] to take root in our hearts and displace the love, forgiveness and grace we are called to show as followers of Christ is not what Jesus died on the cross for us for. It’s a trap of our own making.
We have to decide whether we want to stay there or break out of it with the Holy Spirit’s help.
Daily Citizen: What does it mean to be inoffensive?
Gitsham: Jesus says, “In this world, offense is sure to come, but woe onto those through who offense comes.” Sometimes we’re willing to do whatever it takes just to get an outcome we think is God-honoring. But God cares as much about our character and how we engage as he does about what we stand for.
The best example of this is that Jesus’ harshest words were always for the people who were on the right side of everything — the Pharisees. He was harsh to them because they lacked love. When we give into desire to be offensive, we’re acting out of step with the commandment Jesus left us, which is to love everyone — including our enemies.
Daily Citizen: How do believers talk about morally abhorrent issues without being offensive?
Gitsham: You should hate the things that God hates and be strong in your convictions. Jesus said to speak the truth in love, which means you cannot be loving apart from truth.
But you can absolutely fall into the trap of speaking truth without love, which is why Jesus says to speak the truth in love.
The church — and when I say the church, I mean me, too — can often say the truth is love. [We think], “I spoke the truth. I’m standing on God’s truth. That’s the most loving thing I can do.” That’s patently false. If the truth is love, nobody would have to tell us to speak the truth in love.
When we speak the truth absent from love, which is where I see the church going wrong and where I see myself going wrong most often, we abdicate the power that the Holy Spirit has given us to love our neighbor.
We do not love people in and of our own strength. It’s Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us that empowers us to do everything. John 15:5 says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” — which includes love! When we abide in him, we are empowered to overcome our base instincts to speak about the truth un-lovingly in direct opposition to Jesus’ command.
Daily Citizen: How do we prepare to have disagreements?
Gitsham: I ask God to help establish my intentions and set the tone of the conversation. I ask the Lord to speak through me. That’s the number one thing — get your heart and your mind in the right place, saying, “Lord, use me as a vessel of your love and your truth.”
There’ll be days when I’ll go on TV and I’m more focused on being clever, or my performance, or anything other than speaking truth in love. Sometimes when I’m off, I’ll land a really sharp point and people on the panel will be surprised because they don’t expect that from me. I disappoint myself, and them, and Jesus.
When I’m focused on the wrong thing, like winning, I end up winning at the cost of somebody’s emotional well-being or their dignity. Winning in the absence of love is not a win.
Then, I would try to ask the Lord for discernment in timing. It’s disrespectful to bring things up out of season, and in the wrong time. The last thing you want do is ruin someone’s wedding or birthday.
Make sure to think about your audience, also. How hard you push depends on the extent of the relationship you have with that person. You can tell your best friend they’re stupid, and they’ll still be your best friend. But if you’re cavalier with your words to a stranger, you’re going lose your potential to impact that person.
Lastly, when you know you’re going to have a disagreement, ask people to cover you in prayer. For me, it’s easy, because I have a set time I know I’m going be on TV, and I know we’re going to talk about, say, LGBTQ issues. I know everyone’s going to be looking at me to hold down the Christian fort, and I want to say the truth lovingly. I’ve got 20 people I text, “Hey, I’m about to go into to the viper pit. I need you to cover me in prayer.”
Knowing other people are praying for me not only holds me to like a higher standard, but actually covers me. I feel like sometimes I’ll say sharp things, and people won’t hear them. It’s almost like the Lord put holy earmuffs on them, or muted me. It’s a supernatural thing.