It’s been said “United we stand; divided we fall.” If so, we’ve spent a lot of time face down in the dirt lately.
Nothing is more exhausting than divisiveness. Are you worn out, too? Fake news, accusations, viral videos, misinformation, vitriol, Twitter tiffs, and even slight differences of opinions are causing the most even-tempered person to become unhinged. Face-to-face interactions become heated; online discussions take ugly turns.
We expect this in politics; it’s disheartening when it reaches our pews.
For the disheartened, the lost, the confused, the frustrated, and the disillusioned let me offer encouragement: you are not alone. What we are experiencing is not new. History is full of people who longed for a life which promoted truth and justice over underhandedness. Movements have fought to put good people in power and evil ones behind bars. Every one of us longs for a homeland where peace prevails over problems.
Early Christ followers were in the same boat. Many viewed Jesus as a “Savior” who would reinstate their earthly home and uproot the Roman government, not The Savior who would restore their souls. The first point of view focuses on the here-and-now; the other offers an eternal view.
In Acts 1:6 new believers asked the question many of us pose today: “Lord, at this time are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
In other words, “When are you going to set up this good life you’ve promised us?” In verse 7 Jesus responds, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Short-sighted requests get short-sighted results. Instead, Jesus challenges us to think beyond our immediate circumstances.
What can we do to offer light to a world content to sit in the dark?
- Look up. Obviously, policies implemented in our world have direct impact on us. We should discuss and critique these. We must ask tough questions and do our homework. It’d be irresponsible not to challenge unjust policies and unethical people. And we must be willing to admit when we’ve gotten off track. Looking to the religious right or the political left shouldn’t be our first move. Instead, we must learn to look up to the One who reigns over it all.
- Bring it. Following Christ doesn’t mean staying mute when things get uncomfortable. Truth is always in style, and Scripture gives us authority to gently correct and restore others. At the same time, we must realize righting a ship doesn’t solely depend on us individually. Some of us plant the seeds, others bring rain, and a few assist in the growth process. However, God is the one who harvests. God doesn’t need your big mouth; He needs sincere hearts.
- Don’t drive wedges. Avoid looking for fights in person or online. It’s a huge turnoff to hijack someone’s conversation. Plus, are they really going to be open to what you are saying when you’re trolling for things to nitpick? Stop poking the proverbial bear. Instead, invite others to engage in conversations at your personal work station, home, or social media page. Dialogues, no matter where they take place, should always be rooted in respect and civility.
- Offer grace. “I know stuff!” is what I tell my preteen when he challenges me (translation: Mom doesn’t know anything). Even though I have decades of experience and knowledge, he’s 11 and is learning to navigate his own life. Plus, I need to be a mature adult. Maybe you are knowledgeable in matters of Scripture, your career or current events. Being knowledgeable doesn’t mean being a know-it-all. Offering grace sometimes means being patient with others and letting them grow at the pace God has laid out for them.
The apostle Paul sums up this grace concept in Romans 12:16-18: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Living at peace with others does not always mean they’ll want to live peacefully with you. So be it. Stand strong, offer grace, and keep looking up.