Why is this such a challenging statement? A statement that can imply (and incite) anger, frustration, resentment, confusion. A statement that, honestly, many of us haven’t lived all too well? I’ve been told (and partially agree) that political sermons are a bad idea. Political posts incite anger. Don’t discuss controversial issues. Don’t isolate or anger a large group of people for the sake of a rant. Yes, there is some truth in this.
A lot of truth, actually.
But my fear is that we have forgotten how to lovingly and peacefully discuss these topics with one another.
Partially due to social media.
Partially due to the nature of the controversies.
But when did these “topics,” these “issues,” become the very things that would divide us? No longer are we divided by denomination or religion but by politics and laws and rights. We started choosing sides and disassociating ourselves with the other side. This is a grave misfortune.
We were created for relationships, for diversity, for differences, and for the tension the lies within these.
So yes, I disagree with mean-spirited social media rants. With commenting on posts that incite anger, fear, or hatred. But yes, I also disagree with silence. Silence on the injustice that is taking place. Silence in the conversations that need to be had. I believe we need to DISCUSS (key word) these things with one another. We need to be able to have, non-ranting/angry/mean spirited conversations about the difficult, challenging, and controversial things that exist in our world today.
We need to agree to disagree… agreeably.
I wish I could take credit for this phrase, but truthfully the credit goes to my boss, Rufus Smith. But I’ve adopted it. & Have been (trying to) live it. I would be lying if I said this was an easy thing to live. It’s not. It’s incredibly challenging. Not to mention, my job puts me in a precarious situation. A situation where there are many people who agree and support me as a pastor. And there are equally as many who don’t. And over the years I’ve learn to wade this new territory. Territory where people, on the same team, both and agree and disagree with you. Add into the mix working in a mega church filled with all different kinds of theologies, political affiliations, and difference of opinions and it gets complicated real quick.
& So, I have guarded these discussions. I have mostly nodded my head and remained silent about the things that matter most to me. I have feared the tension. The conversations. The disagreeing.
I say all of that to say, I get it. I get how challenging all of this is. But I also get that this is new territory for our nation. Territory where we are more divided than ever. People on either side not understanding one another. Hating one another. Pointing fingers all the while the divide is growing. Wider and deeper than I have witnessed thus far.
Let us speak our beliefs in love and kindness and be willing to abandon policies or laws or lines drawn for the sake of people. Of lives. Created in the image of God. Because that’s where we are ALL the same. We ALL are people. Created equally, in the image of God. Believer, non- believer. Democrat. Republican. Immigrant. Citizen. Heterosexual. Homosexual. Male. Female. PEOPLE… God-created people.
Let us love one another in such a way that we are willing to step into the divide. Have conversations. Stand up for one another. Speak God’s truth. And be the PEOPLE we were called and created to be.
Will this be challenging and frustrating and painful? 100 percent.
& I dare say if this is easy for you right now, either you have an extra dose of the gift of mercy and overflowing grace or you aren’t in enough conversations with those who think differently than you. This call (really challenge) is not to pat one another on the back. Roll our eyes from a difficult conversation and leave never having wrestled with the tension. It’s a call to wrestle. To honestly try to understand the other side.
To leave with more questions than points you made.
The other day I bumped into a young guy from Germany. After my sermon, he came up and ask me, “Is Christianity only about getting saved from hell?” His honesty and frankness caught me off guard but truthfully it was refreshing. He continued explaining to me the difference of cultures and religion between America and Germany and how so many of the Christians he has encountered here in the States have been mean spirited and judgmental of one another, of policies, of the election, and have spent more time talking about hell than love and hope and justice.
This confused him (understandably so). But my heart broke hearing his words. His words of judgement, anger, division, and fear. Not words of love, hope, justice, peace. His words and experience saddened my heart and fueled this post. NOT a post to rant BUT to challenge.
To encourage believers to unite.
To dive into the Scriptures and seek to live a life like that of Jesus.
A life where we are wrestling with the tension. Where we are seeking to deeply love one another… & not just those who look, think, act like us. But those who are different. Who are hard for us. Those who we don’t understand. Who get under our skin… ALL PEOPLE.
The world needs it (& is watching) now more than ever. Will we suddenly all agree on politics or women in ministry or healthcare or whatever… not even close.
But can we begin resembling the kingdom of God with our love (and patience) for one another and those around us? I believe so.
I believe that as we begin resembling a kingdom filled with different races, genders, political parties, denominations; a kingdom filled with love, hope, justice, patience, kindness, we will be living out our mission. A mission of equality. Of love. Of justice. Of truth.
I also believe the enemy has us all off track. We have become a group of people focused on what divides while skimming over what unites.
It’s time, Christians, for us to stop skimming and remember.
Remember our mission.
Remember our purpose.
Remember our savior.
So, lean into the hard questions, don’t shy away. Ask them. Answer them. Discuss them. And let all of your thoughts and conversations be seasoned with L O V E.
Let us unite through such a season and difficult time.
& Let us be know for our great love and action, not our silence and division.
My prayer is that this may be said of the people of God.