It was an unusual conversation because, I have found politics to be the most divisive topic on planet earth. It only rivals minor Christian theological differences in its ability to make people foam at the mouth and yell at each other. =)
Recently a friend confronted me on something. It really was difficult to sit there and listen to it all, but I chose to receive it. I chose to listen and find the truth, then apply it to my life. That's never easy to do, but so vital if you want to mature, grow, and develop. Basically it concerned my occasional Facebook posts that tend to have a certain political slant, or at the very least, try and help people see the other side. I would say that behind these "controversial" posts is a desire to help show a broader faith - that the faith is big enough for all of us, and that there's room for differing opinions. What I'm discovering, and you know this as well, when you post something political in nature, even if you're not commenting on it, but just posting it as an interesting thing to see, one side or the other doesn't see a broader and refreshingly wide faith at all. They just see someone who disagrees with them and they can't fathom someone having a different perspective.
Here's an example: Recently a video was posted showing Obama allowing the crowd to interrupt his speech - he actually listened, responded, and no one was thrown out of the room. I'm sure you saw it - but it was very different from other political figures I've seen recently. At any rate, I didn't comment (I'm trying to take the advice of my above friend who confronted me), but I did click the like button on the video that my Facebook friend posted. Right away, I saw that someone had messaged me. I opened it up and it was someone else confronting me about liking that video... they were very upset with me. REALLY upset... Ugh!
So now I'm finding that I guess you have to throw the baby out with the bath water. There just isn't room in the cultural landscape to admire what and who you can admire, especially if it's someone that others don't agree with politically. It is all or nothing.
My problem is that I tend to be in the middle on most things, so I make everyone angry.
I don't align myself and the funny thing is, I never have. Even when I was a kid I had different friend groups - groups that would never hang out with each other, but I could see the value in both. I could appreciate both sets, even though they were vastly different from each other. I do this theologically and I do this politically. I point out the good, no matter who says it. All good, and for that matter, all truth belongs to God, no matter who says it. When I see it, I like to point it out. If the Dalai Lama says something true, I like to acknowledge it. If Joel Osteen says something true, its true. If Obama does something admirable, I like it.
But there's a great divide for sure.
Think about the things that divide us:
Democrats or Republican
Charismatic gifts or Dispensational theology
Pro gun or Anti gun
Para-church youth ministry or Church based youth ministry
Women in pastoral ministry vs Women in children's ministry
We could go on and on about the things that divide us... There's just too much!
Recently I had a conversation with someone about how thin skinned we have become as a society and in particular, the Christian culture. Many of us are just too easily offended. But this person interrupted and said, "No, I think it's good to be offended." He went on to make his point and I sat there thinking - REALLY?! Of course I didn't respond and I tried to listen with an open heart, but in my opinion, being offended doesn't bring us closer and it's a miserable way to live.
Twice in the book of Proverbs we are told to “cover” offenses (Proverbs 10:12; 17:9). The covering of an offense is all about love.
1 Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins." In any relationship, there are many things that should just be “covered” for the sake of love. Even someone's Facebook rant. And by covering that offense, we are empathizing with the offender and extending the benefit of the doubt. Proverbs 19:11 actually tells us to overlook offenses. If someone has done something that is offensive, what we have is an amazing opportunity to love, to empathize, and to learn. We're actually supposed to overlook it, to be confident enough in who we are in Christ that we are not shaken and can stay warm towards them. If someone is offended, it's my opinion that they must really struggle with their own identity. If you know that you are God's beloved, then nothing should really shake you - especially someone else choices, thoughts, or opinions that have nothing to do with you. If we're the one who takes up an offense, we are the one in the wrong - we are the weaker brother.
As I have thought about the conversations with both of my confronting friends, it really caused me to think about what role I want to play. One of my favorite all time verses is Philippians 2:1-4
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.
How can we agree with each other when we disagree on so much? Here's my opinion: When we as Christians have Jesus, there's just too much to agree on. When we have Jesus, we have all things in common - I learned this living in both the post-Christian North West and the post-christian North East. When we have Jesus, he becomes our lens, our everything, the way we see all of life... We've got to allow our heads to be lifted and our eyes to be focused on the main thing. I want to be a unifier, not a divider - but this isn't easy, especially when everyone is so angry.
So what's the point of this post? As Christians and youth workers we must know that we are being watched. As I sat on that plane, it became so evident that I had an important role to play in the conversation. Ultimately I believe that Christ was glorified as we sat there exchanging ideas, respecting each other, and really listening. And it was so much fun!
I love what Jesus said, "the world will know that we are his, by how we love..." Man that is huge. As we head into the election year, my prayer is that a miracle would happen. And yes it would be a miracle!