For some time, I have been troubled over the way that we, as a society and as individuals, approach conflict. Civil discourse has given way, in large part, to guerrilla-like tactics and all-out war in the very halls that once were a symbol of maturity and civility. The following post flows from my troubled spirit. As such, much of this is therapeutic for me. I just feel like I need to be transparent and to add what is hopefully a respectful voice to the conversation.
I’ve been on the verge of shutting down all of my social media accounts for about a year.
Because there is a certain burden associated with standing by and watching a few of your friends – a few of your vocal friends – become those obnoxious, narrow-minded individuals who prove little with their rhetoric, who often react strongly on the basis of misinformation, and who, quite frankly, eclipse the value of their “stand” on a particular issue with their words of bias and hatred. That saddens me.
For example, I am troubled over a young man who I once believed showed great promise in the field of peacemaking. But his online posts revealed bias, bigotry, and almost total disregard for anyone who thinks differently. I am certainly tough enough to hear his opinion and rancor, but it is just painful and embarrassing. And I often wonder what damage he is doing to others and for the peaceful cause of Christ.
I have other friends or acquaintances, both personal and online, who have taken far different positions from me on political matters, theological matters, health and lifestyle matters. They have stated their opinions and made their arguments. Respectfully.
The quietness of their voices belies the volume of their message. By speaking appropriately, at the right time, and with a humility that comes from valuing others, their words were heard.
On a number of the issues these friends address, I don’t find myself persuaded. Yet, I do experience a deeper understanding of both them and of myself. And I’ve found that when I respond in kind, our conversations and our relationships grow stronger. In many cases, we find true resolution to the challenges that threaten to separate us.
People are finding a lot of issues to fight over in the political realm. The economy, gun control, immigration. In recent days, with the United States Supreme Court considering cases involving same-sex relationships, the bile vomited from both sides of the issue is revolting at its occurrence and the stench it has left behind is stifling.
WARNING: The following is a statement of my beliefs.
I believe in God and in Jesus Christ.
I believe that God tells us through scripture that homosexuality is a sin.
However, I also believe that God has made it clear that
- Adultery and fornication are sins.
- Murder and covetousness are sins.
- Lust, lying, and idolatry are sins.
- Personal promotion over the needs of others and anger are sins.
- A good portion of my personal motivation is worldly and, thus, sinful.
And I believe that God makes no distinction between sins. He despises them all because he sees what sin does to us, his beloved. God loves us even though we are sinners.
I see no need to enter into public debate of my beliefs because of the inherent problem with the public debate of sin.
The problem with the public debate of sin is that sin is not debatable or negotiable. It is what it is. We don’t have the option of deciding what is sinful and what is not.
Therefore, I also believe that God has made it clear that
- I am to love all people, regardless of their beliefs.
- I am to respect every one.
- I am to converse and work with others in an effort to build relationship and, where needed and available, reconciliation – regardless of their belief.
- I am never to do anything that drives others further from God because of my weakness in conveying God’s spirit and being.
- I am never to do anything that soils the image of God with others by acting like . . . well, like me. I am called to walk in God’s steps and take on his demeanor and spirit of love.
- I am to challenge my own beliefs, ferret out errors in my thinking and behavior, and seek a brighter understanding. While God is all-knowing and wise, I am only a work-in-progress.
- I can have hope in a God who loves, who listens, and who provides grace for my failings.
- God will make the judgments about people. That is not my job.
- I can, with a desire to obey God, become a person who others see God through — even when I set clear standards and expectations and disagree with them.
And, I also believe that my failure to seek the things on this last list is just as sinful as the things on my first list.
Right now, we are confusing the concept of sin with the concept of public opinion. We seem to believe that the Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue or that issue will be a blow to the kingdom of heaven. How shortsighted can we be?
You can’t legislate or litigate morality. You can’t make people accept God’s invitation to holiness and a joyful life. You can’t publicly debate sin and expect to see large scale conversion as a result. In fact, you most likely will see the opposite.
Here’s what we can do:
- Live in accordance with our understanding of God’s hopes and desires for us.
- Encourage others to come to know God.
- Encourage each other in holy living.
- When we disagree, never let our personal motives or feelings derail the hope for reconciliation and future relationship with others.
- Exercise our voices appropriately. Talk with humility. Speak truth. Explore questions with integrity. Vote. Stay engaged and remain helpful when the vote goes against us.
- Love every single person – family, friends, strangers, and especially our enemies.
God asks us for very little because God has everything covered. Let’s quit debating and begin meaningful conversation. We can accomplish far more by pursuing peace than we can by waging war.