Whether you’re a youth leader, teacher or parent, it’s important to help teenagers think and talk about politics respectfully. They can do this in a God honoring way (1 Corinthians 10:31) that makes the Gospel look attractive (Titus 2:10).
So much anger, hatred and meanness percolates online that it’s easy to avoid the subject of politics with Generation Z. But it’s vitally important to show the next generation how to biblically engage on issues (even political ones!) in a loving, humble and God honoring way.
With this as a backdrop, here are 4 Big “E’s” to help teens think and talk about politics in a God honoring way:
A God Honoring Way: 4 Big E’s
1. Encourage kids to let God’s Word guide their moral and political views.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 1 Timothy 3:16,17
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Faith in Christ regenerates young hearts. But God’s Word renews young minds.
We must help teen Christ-followers understand and embrace the authority of God’s Word. In a culture where guiding authority comes more from Instagram influencers than inspired Scripture, this may seem radical. But God is the Author of Life and the essence of truth. His Word should be our playbook not only for life and theology but for politics and morality.
And, if you think about it, Jesus was the ultimate influencer. His birth cracked the calendar in two, and his life set the world abuzz with his miracles and messages. His death set a lost humanity free, and his resurrection proved that everything he said was true! Two thousands years later, Jesus’ radical message of redemption, reconciliation and rescue is still revolutionizing billions of lives!
A Biblical Foundation
God’s Word (aka, The Bible) must drive teenagers’ beliefs on every level…including politics! How do we do that without telling teenagers who they should vote for when they’re old enough to vote?
We do that by equipping them to wrestle through political and moral issues biblically. For instance, we need to help them see that killing an unborn child is murder (Psalm 139:13-15), but that to refuse to care for the poor is sin (1 John 3:17-18.) We need to help them see that to treat the rich with favoritism is an insult to God (James 2:1-10), but to give food to someone who refuses to work in unbiblical (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Another example: We can demonstrate that loving immigrants is God’s will (Deuteronomy 10:19), yet people must obey the laws of a nation (Romans 13:1-7.) We need to help them see that biblical marriage is always between a man and a woman (Mark 10:7-10). But to speak mean, hate-filled words to someone breaks God’s clear commandment (Ephesians 4:29).
As you can see, the Bible’s view of these issues doesn’t fit nicely and neatly into one political party’s platform. So teenagers need to learn to wrestle through God’s Word under the power of God’s Spirit to form their own political views based on Scripture.
2. Engage students in prayer for political leaders.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
I prayed for Presidents Obama and Trump when they were in office. And now I pray for President Biden. Why? Because God commands me to. I pray for God to give them wisdom and guidance. I pray that, as a result of their lead, “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” And I pray they are saved, because God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
We need to help teenagers realize that, contrary to popular opinion, politicians have souls too. They need the hope of Jesus every bit as much as you and I do.
And before you comment about how bad so-and-so is, remember: When Paul wrote these words, Nero was the Roman emperor. Yes, that Nero. The same one who impaled Christians on large sticks, drenched them in wax and used them to light up his garden sex parties.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul reminds Timothy to pray for the king. In Romans 13 he reminds believers to “submit to the governing authorities…” We must help teenagers pray for political leaders, even if, or, maybe especially if, they disagree with them. That is the God honoring way.
3. Equip young people to turn every conversation toward the Gospel.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:2-6
As teenagers converse with friends about politics and morals, we must remind them to look for the “fork in the road” opportunity that can turn those conversations toward Christ. It could go something like this…
- Why am I pro-life? Because Jesus is the Author of Life!
- Why do I care for the poor? Because Jesus came to preach to the poor!
- What makes me hate racism? Because Jesus came to reconcile!
- Why do I disagree with financial handouts? Because Jesus calls us to work hard!
You can skillfully turn any political or moral issue toward Jesus and the good news of his Gospel message. We must help teenagers do that in a God honoring way.
4. Energize kids to love people they disagree with politically.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.” Luke 6:27-29
We must arm teenagers with buckets of water, not jars of kerosene, in America’s current political firestorm. Help kids remember that we can disagree with someone politically—even fellow believers—and still treat them with dignity in a God honoring way.
We see this play out in Matthew 10:1-4, when Jesus calls his 12 disciples. Those men had a wide range of political views. On one side, Simon the Zealot was part of a political movement that despised Rome’s tyrannical rule. On the other side, Matthew collected taxes for Rome. Who knows what heated arguments happened around a campfire as the disciples ate fish and chips while discussing politics?
But at the end of the day, their collective unity in Christ trumped their individual political views.
In the same way we, as believers, must embrace the truth that our spiritual unity far outweighs political differences. Of course that doesn’t mean we avoid real issues, especially ones that are clear in Scripture. It means that, as Ephesians 4:15 reminds us, we speak the truth in love to build each other up in faith…in a God honoring way.
We must equip teenagers to do the same. Too much is at stake. The mean-spirited, mud-throwing hate-fest must stop. And we must help teenagers stop it. We must set examples of pursuing a God honoring way.
Don’t give up on Gen Z!
Recently I had a conversation with a megachurch pastor who was super discouraged. He told me, “I’ve almost given up on this current generation of Christian adults when it comes to these issues. There is so much hate, anger and vitriol over political issues that it makes me sick. Perhaps it will be those who aren’t yet Christians who will turn the tide back toward the Jesus way.”
I said, “Or maybe it will be the current generation of Christian teenagers who are sick and tired of their parents acting like spoiled brats online. Maybe they will set the pace for sharing the Gospel and speaking the truth in a loving, God honoring way.“
He said, “Yes. I believe in Generation Z.“ I’m sure you do too; otherwise, you most likely wouldn’t be reading this post.
So let’s help our teenagers think and talk about politics in a God honoring way. And then, let’s equip them to turn those conversations toward King Jesus and his kingdom that will never fail.
This article originally appeared here.