Engage with maturity don’t expel with immaturity
It’s hard when we don’t get our own way. My kids have taught me that. They throw a tantrum, hit, throw and scream. That’s what immaturity fosters. Maturity provokes civility, conversation and peaceful discourse. When we choose to riot, rebel and resist, it communicates a message to others that is immature. God wants us to be mature as Christians. Not just mature but “Christlike.”
For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.
He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 1 Peter 2:21-23
It’s tempting to bully behind your keyboard and tweetstorm. But it would be far more valuable to donate your time, financial contributions or professional skill-sets to an organize your community (life group, small group, facebook group, book club, etc) and find where you can be a resource of information and a steward of conversation. Many people feel like they can’t get involved because they don’t know where to start. Just find a door of opportunity and start the conversation.
Instead of creating walls, create opportunities
Jesus chose to go into difficult places, not avoid them. He was seen with the marginalized, the broken and the hurting. He was a friend of drunks, sexual deviants, outcasts, etc. He was more pro-woman than any political figure in history considering the context of the first century. He was more “politically right” with his beliefs about Scripture, loving the religious, supporting the Roman military and leading with charity. He also was more “liberal” with the way He chose to love: Jesus fed the hungry, reached out cross-culturally, identified with the poor, loved the religious and fought for the outsider. , etc. He chose to live by breaking down walls. When we break down walls and come together with those who are different than us, we show the world that we are His disciples and that Jesus is who He said He is (John 17).
Live in the “in-between”
We know a lot lately about not wanting to live in the “upside-down.” But do you know about living in the “in-between.” The in-between is that space between the extremes of faith and politics. Here’s what I mean. Take Matthew and Simon. These are two of Jesus disciples. Jesus recruited Simon the zealot (essentially and anti-government, religious radical) to be on his team and Matthew (a pledged allegiance to the Roman government employee). Jesus showed us all that two people on polar opposites of the political spectrum can live and love in community together. We will always be surrounded by these two sides: those who “share my faith but don’t agree with my politics” and those who “share my political view but don’t agree with my faith.” How you live in-between will determine how you honor.
“Pump the breaks” on conditional honoring
We are quick to dismiss others who don’t agree with our political views, parenting views, etc. We seem to have drifted into a conversational norm of “ I will respect you if you respect me but if we disagree then ‘screw you.’” People are going to disagree with you. Simply writing them off and calling them a name or putting a label on them doesn’t make us better as a community. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they aren’t human. God wants us to honor all people (1 Peter 2:17). Honor is not emotional response but is meant to be a humble response. Even Jesus who was being dishonord by everyone around him who was deserving of honor but received none, chose the higher road and we should too:
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” Philippians 2: 3-9
Submission to authorities not subversion of authorities
Imagine being forced to live under a political leadership you didn’t vote for and completely despised. Some of us would say, “lived it for 8 years” and some would say “living it right now.” In Daniel, four young and ambitious leaders found themselves living under and working under an administration that was different than what they believed in. The administration was enforcing rules that was against the convictions these young people believed. Rather than rebelling and resisting, these young people took a different approach: they honored their leadership about the expectations, the rules and regulations they didn’t agree with:
[Daniel] asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. …Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable (Daniel 1:8-9, 20).
The result of responding the right way gave them more political and relational clout than they ever could have imagined. Instead of just protesting and screaming at the sky, what if we chose to have rational discourse with those in charge over us? We may have the right to protest, but is it the right thing to do right now in your disagreement?
Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes
Many of us don’t know what it’s like to be going through what they are going through. We don’t knjow what happening behind the scenes. 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.
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.
It’s Not About Being Political but 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. The Bible says this about graciousness,
“Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6 NLT
I would define graciousness as this: having a forgiving attitude and a compassionate position while walking in wisdom with those whose attitudes and beliefs differ from yours. So be gracious towards others than being defensive towards others.
Conflict is rooted in not understanding where others around you are coming from. So when a conflict arises, rather than trying to "gain understanding" we instead are trying to tell them "what's going on." Stephen Covey speaks to this in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when he says, "seek first to understand then to be understood." So guard yourself against assuming because when you assume you cease to draw close because you "already know" their thoughts and motives and remain at a distance. If you're going to assume something...assume the best about that person and not the worst! When you believe the best about someone you can't help but draw closer and draw from them.
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.” Philippians 2:3-6
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.
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.
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?