I’m watching a “divide widen” right before my eyes. I see a country turning on each other. We’ve heard political statements made about race, transgender, refugees, women’s marches, homosexual cake-making, celebrities in pink beanies, etc. and the list goes on. I watch the division in our country become more visceral, I ask the question as a Christian:
How do I respond?
What do I say?
It’s hard. Sincere Christians don’t want to offend people but desire to love people. Followers of Jesus don’t want to keep others away from “knowing Jesus.” The church doesn’t want to to be known for being closed-minded, out of touch or hateful in any way. With tensions high, we don’t want to be the center of controversy, drama or arguments.
So we chose to be silent, disengaged from conversations on critical topics in culture. Doesn’t Jesus say, “Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23)? The key word is "foolish." The obvious characteristics of foolishness is "yelling, screaming, fighting, etc". I'm talking about smart dialogue to make us and our communities better. So instead if having "everything to do with critical conversations" we choose “opt out” of these essential dialogues Jesus meant for us engage in. Without “Christian voice” in the narrative….like any conversation, it becomes one-sided.
But I want to challenge Us with this: We have an obligation to engage in what is happening in culture. Jesus walked into culture and asked hard questions and brought clarity with love, honesty and hope…we should do the same. That doesn’t mean we won’t be in the middle of cultural arguments and issues. Jesus was in the middle of controversy but with a grace that allowed others to hear what He had to say. Sure he wasn’t void of arguments from the cultural and political leaders of His day…but He chose to speak life and truth into the current national climate of the first century. Christ in us compels us to speak with the same grace, the same life and the same truth into our our culture as well.
It’s not left and right. It’s not their side or my side. As Christians, there is only one side…God’s side. God’s Kingdom is one of acceptance, unconditional love, honor, forgiveness, grace and hope. I’m reminded of a political leader of the day, Joshua, who was engaging in wars, fighting wars, leading people, making policies, standing for what was right. There was a battle ensuing and a conflict was evident between two sides and when Joshua asked God whose side are you on…mine, right? God answered with an “I’m on MY side.” If you are lover of Jesus then there is only one side…God’s side. When you’re on God’s side you DO take a stand. When you take a stand against injustice, you fight for oppressed, you care for the fatherless, you give to those that are living without...you take a stand WITH God.
THIS is God’s side. This is the side that says ALL people are created by God and in the image of God. It’s the side that says EVERYONE has value. ALL people are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of ethnicity, wealth, gender or status in life. Jesus transcends the barriers of prejudice and we should too. Jesus said when he was speaking to the crowd that if you want to make a difference spiritually in your city then treat the guy next to you the way you would want to be treated or to quote the Bible, “love your neighbor as yourself.” As human beings, that can be hard to do. So the people responded, Who is my neighbor?” And that’s when Jesus tells the story of the “Good Samaritan.” While a series of “religious people” chose to “opt out” of the “carnage in the streets” a Samaritan man chose to not just engage but help and invest (he paid for hospital bills and hotel rooms) in seeing this person become a better person (Luke 10:25-37)
Jesus modeled it beautifully and encourages us to do the same. How we treat and love our neighbor is at the very core of what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus. If the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor as ourself then walking across the “roads” and “into the streets” where we go to others who think and believe differently than we do is the heart of the Gospel. Samaritans and Jewish people were "racially charged" because of their past. Simply put: there was a racial divide between Jewish people and Samaritan people. So when Jesus speaks of this, Jesus is speaking directly to the racial and political tensions that were evident in the day. It’s less about engaging your political views with others and more about engaging your Gospel heart with others. That’s why Christians should choose to win hearts not arguments. So love your neighbor. In complicated times such as these, it can’t be more simple than that.
So how can you thoughtfully engage in what is happening around you?
1. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
Many of us don’t know what it’s like to experience racial bigotry, sexual identity accusation, gender inequality, etc. So do your best to gain understanding. That’s wisdom according to God:
“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7
So try to understand where the other is coming from. This will not only build a bridge but will help calm the waters as you empathize.
2. Before you say it…pray it
I’m guilty of just speaking what I’m feeling. Before you engage with someone or in something…give it some time in prayer. It’s there you will get God’s heart for your situation and for that PERSON. It’s a lot easier for you to see where they are coming from when you see how God sees them in prayer.
3. It’s not about being political but it’s about being Gospel
Gospel means “good news.” So be a bringer of “good news” not “bad news" or "fake news." You can’t have the Gospel without grace. We need the graciousness of God. So be a gracious person. Graciousness is one of the most potent postures you can make when engaging with others. We believe graciousness overrules combativeness at the end of the day. Graciousness is this: Having a forgiving attitude and a compassionate position while walking in wisdom with those whos attitudes and beliefs differ from yours. So be gracious towards others than being defensive towards others.
4. Consider others better than you
Remember … according to Jesus, everyone has equal value. No human is better than another. That's a hard attitude to have and to be consistent with. But Jesus held true to that by having this attitude: consider others better than you. The Bible says it best in Philippians 2:3-6 in the Message:
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges.”
5. Have conversations not confrontations.
We’ve seen enough confrontation to last us a lifetime. So let’s start having conversations. That means it is a two-sided dialogue. So be a "potent listener." Listening shows more power and grace than you can imagine. We have to listen in order to be listened to. Which means don't come in to the argument simply telling me just what to think or what you think but ask me what I think. How you say it is just as important as what you say. Stop trying so hard to be “convincing” and start by being “inviting.” Don’t see barriers but opportunities. Choose to rally around themes that can do the most good: love, honor, peace, humility, kindness, forgiveness and hope.
So if someone asks me, "Are you against Trump?" I'm going to rally around the themes of peace, forgiveness and honor by responding with this:
"Instead of who I'm against or what I'm against, let me tell you what I'm 100% for: human dignity, valuing all races, finding forgiveness to heal and bringing us together in peace. I can see you're hurting over what's happening ... how can I help?"
6. Practice peacemaking
That means you need to be intentional to bring peace to people, places and discussions. This is not a peace that is fabricated but a peace that is faith-related. This is a peace that is not manipulated with the right substance or the right circumstance but a peace that is magnified as a person. This is a supernatural peace, a Godly peace, that has nothing to do with human beings or human circumstances. In fact it can’t be produced by anyone but it can be found by everyone . This peace is a Person. It’s Jesus. He is called “the Prince of peace” and He crushed evil like no one else could (Romans 16:20). So the closer you are to Jesus…the closer you are to peace. Jesus doesn’t get stressed out, worry, or get afraid but lives in perfect contentment. You can too.
7. Be a good neighbor
I know we already said it but we can’t say it enough: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. True joy is NOT found in pursuing our own desires but fulfilling the desires of others. So we choose to keep our doors open and our lives open as good neighbors to create a better community. Acceptance is more palatable to culture than resistance so we choose to accept people where they are and influence people to where they could be in Jesus. So we follow the advice of Jesus,
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24
At the end of the day, isn't it less about proving you're right or wrong and more about seeing others draw closer to the unconditional love of Jesus?
Anything else you would add to this conversation?