It seems like we have gotten to a place where “doing what’s right” means doing what’s right for “our team” or doing whatever will advance the cause of “our team”. Our team might be political–democrats or republicans, it might be racial–black or white, it might be men vs. women, or perhaps it’s religious–Christians vs Muslims vs atheists; it might be pro-life vs pro-choice. Maybe it’s masks or no masks?
It divides us.
BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO!!
I have people in my life who I LOVE who are democrats and republicans, black and white (and brown), men and women, gay and straight, Christian and non-Christian, pro-life and pro-choice. There is a LOT of stuff that we don’t agree on! A whole lot of stuff. But I am a better human being because of the people in my life who think differently than I do.
We can think differently, be passionate about vastly different things and still love one another and we can still be kind to each other and we really SHOULD take time to listen to each other!
A few years ago God put me in a position where I was daily surrounded with people who had dramatically different values than mine. It was disconcerting at first. It was down right weird actually. I had previously spent the majority of time with people, who for the most part, shared very similar beliefs. I was suddenly like a fish out of water. At times I wasn’t quite sure how to interact with these people. But God began to show me. I was to love them. And as I began to pray for them, God really gave me a great and amazing love for them that I never could have mustered up on my own.
One woman came to me one day and she told me, “I like you. I didn’t think I could like you because we don’t believe the same way about the issue of pro-life vs pro-choice. But you’re ok.” She had absolutely no idea how that made my heart happy. I told her that of course we could be friends regardless of our differences and we could even have great conversations about the issue if she wanted too. This isn’t the only difference between us. The two of us are vastly different on so many levels. But we have become an unlikely pair of friends. She encourages me at odd moments when I am not expecting it. I have been able to walk through some serious struggles with her and to pray for her. I love her. I care what happens to her and about what is happening in her life. She has a very special place in my heart. But if we had just summed each other up based on our differences this relationship would have never happened.
As I have been surrounded by people who think about the world differently than I do, God has used them to change my heart in so many ways. (Although I still have a long way to go!) I realized that I had been living in a bit of an echo chamber. It’s easy to believe something and to be convinced that it is right when everyone you know believes the same thing and affirms your belief. We seek out those people don’t we? It’s easier to be around people who think like we do. It’s comfortable and it makes us feel like we are right in our thinking.
As I developed relationships with these people God surrounded me with, I began to see a different side to many things. It wasn’t necessarily a matter of them being right and me being wrong, or vice versa. It was a matter of me listening more and beginning to understand why they think about the world differently than I do. As someone recently reminded me, it’s because they have a story of their own that has shaped their thinking. Regardless of whether or not they are right, they have a reason for their beliefs.
I have also learned that telling someone that what they believe is wrong likely won’t convince them to change their mind. In fact, it is more likely to cause them to double down on their beliefs. You know what might change their mind? Love. Respect. Compassion. Asking good questions. Listening to the answers without trying to figure out how you are going to refute them. Patience. Kindness.
But we see this every day on social media don’t we? People yelling at one another through their keyboards to tell each other how wrong they are. Instead of changing hearts and minds, it only reinforces their belief that all the truly rational people think like them.
As Tim Keller states in his book Counterfeit Gods, an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”
Right now on social media it seems that I am seeing so many people who have elevated their cause to idol status. Be it pro-life, pro-choice, their preferred political party, the wearing of masks, protesting or a myriad of other issues, they seem to have gone from a healthy, rational passion for supporting a specific cause to holding that cause more dearly than their relationships with those around them. Suddenly, someone who was a friend or just an acquaintance becomes an enemy because their belief is different. Rather than trying to understand why they might think differently and have enough respect for them to believe that they have a very valid reason, even if it is wrong, suddenly they become the enemy. Suddenly they are being told they can’t really be a Christian, or a Republican or a whatever, if their belief doesn’t align. Oh, we have come up with lots of things to back up our belief for why someone is wrong and why they must be told that they are wrong, but the thing that always seem to be missing in that equation is love.
If you come at life from a Christian perspective then surely you know that the Bible teaches us to love our neighbors. And even better than that, it teaches us to love our enemies. I’m not saying that is at all easy. It’s not. I fail at it daily. Yup. Every single day. But I keep trying to do better.
Unfortunately, it seems we love our idols more than we love one another. According to this article about idols, these are the top 10 most common ones for people:
Which ones are your personal favorites? My favorites seem to be self and comfort. But 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is not self-seeking. It also tells us that love is patient. That it is kind. That it always protects. That it always trusts. How are you doing with all of these things when it comes to your neighbors and your enemies?
It seems that we are willing to make these idols more important than our neighbors, and more important than our obedience to God. And while this might be the standard every day top 10 list, these days I would say for many people it’s the cause that they champion that has become their idol. It has become more important to them than anything else. It’s so important that they will say ugly things to people. And those who live within their echo chamber will cheer them on.
Once you step outside of your echo chamber, or God forcibly removes you, suddenly things begin to look different. It becomes a shocking realization. Ask me how I know.
WE HAVE MORE IN COMMON THAN WHAT DIVIDES US!! At the heart of it, we all want the same things. So protest if you want to, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, vote republican or democrat or independent, whatever! –BUT LOVE THE PEOPLE THAT GOD HAS PUT IN YOUR LIFE and LISTEN TO PEOPLE and BE KIND!! (And as always, I am preaching to myself here just as much as to anyone else!!)
As Ghandi once said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Don’t just shout about it on social media, actually be it!
And as I recently learned, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” I think that is a beautiful and profound idea. I have never been a big fan of many of RBG’s ideas yet I recognize that she was an amazing woman who lived an incredible life and changed our world for the better in many, many ways. I don’t have to agree with her on everything to be able to respect her.
Here’s the challenge, because there is always a challenge, if your cause and winning has become more important than loving your neighbors and your enemies, lay it down. Step back. Walk away. Yup. Just do it. Get some perspective. Then when you decide to pick it up again, champion it with great love and respect for the people who disagree with you.
Go out and love someone well today. Bless someone for absolutely no reason. Better yet, bless someone who disagrees with you or who lives a life you find objectionable. Then let me know what happened! I’ll be over here figuring out who I need to bless.
Leave me a comment and tell me what you think! And if I have challenged you, frustrated you, made you laugh or made you roll your eyes, I would be thrilled and quite honored if you would share this post on your social media.