With the first of many presidential primary debates just around the corner, the 2016 election is looming large. Many are, even this moment, enthusiastically picking their favorite person for the presidency (and other offices), so the topic of politics will likely find its way into Sunday School classrooms, email conversations and other social circles in the days ahead.

This can lead to problems and divisions among brothers and sisters in Christ. In anticipation of this election cycle, I offer these three thoughts.

/// 1. Keep partisan politics away

Politics, like sports, brings out the best and worst in people. It is sad to see people who are unified in Christ become openly hostile toward one another, around game day or Election Day. What starts out as teasing can turn into a real sharp, disagreement and a permanent rift.

Christians should resist the urge to make partisan politics a regular discussion at church. While it is exciting to have a candidate you are proud of, the church hallways is not the best place for a mobile campaign headquarters from which you distribute political yard signs. For the greater good of the Body of Christ, avoid turning your involvement in politics into an intrusion on Sundays.

/// 2. Politics is not the answer

Politics and the force of law are powerful. The past several years of public policy and court decisions related to marriage have proven just how destructive leaders and decisions can be. At the same time, it is easier to destroy than to build up. The creative power of politics is far less than its destructive power.

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandating same-sex marriage, Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said this issue is “not going to be settled by a presidential election or two, or a congressional election or two.” Moore and the ERLC are hosting a conference on Aug. 5 titled, “The Gospel & Politics,” that seeks to encourage Christians to be civically involved without looking to politics as our cure all.

I would encourage anyone to go to www.erlc.com to find out how they can tune into this event online.  Christians must resist the temptation to think that politics alone will fix our culture. It takes the Gospel and the power of God using Christians to build up.

/// 3. We need good people, and we need Him

What is the primary criteria Christians should use for selecting candidates? Is it a strong resume and experience? Is it being right on all the right issues? Certainly these matter a great deal. The moral character of the candidate, however, must be weighed as well.

Who knows what issues will be foremost in the days ahead, in terms of foreign policy and here at home? What we desire is godly leadership. To that end, Christians should go beyond direct mail and TV commercials to find out the true character of potential elected officials.

Ultimately, though, even the best among us has a fallen human nature. Only Jesus is perfect. Only Jesus can right all wrongs, raise up the weak and make straight the crooked. Fortunately, His power is not reliant on an election or vote.

This campaign season, let’s make Jesus first in our thoughts, emotions and plans, before any candidate or campaign.