John Steinbeck once wrote, “Try to understand men. If you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”
Has this pandemic and the current issues within our country united or divided us? Over the last 6 months, this quote has resonated with me as we are all navigating through unchartered waters and unsettling times. This complex and multi-faceted situation is new territory for us all. Our daily interactions with each other has us pledging our allegiance to one side or the other on frequently debated topics. We often characterize and scrutinize the ideologies of others when they do not necessarily align with ours. As a nation and people of faith we can do better.
The emotions experienced throughout this pandemic have been numerous. Feelings of frustration and anger. Depression, worry, and anxiety to name a few. Our emotions have prompted reactionary responses that have intentionally and unintentionally hurt or offended the ones closest to us. The ability to be civil is quickly becoming a rare phenomenon these days. When we surround ourselves with like-minded people, do we paint a negative caricature of those that we disagree with? We can do better.
Our society is experiencing tensions and we are divided on frequently debated topics. Whether it’s the topic of masks, schools opening, churches opening, or the economy, behind every decision there are motivating factors. We have all been affected differently. When we do not share the same views of those we love, are we seeking to understand those different perspectives or do we place a greater emphasis on insisting we are only correct? I’m a firm believer that our experiences guide our decision making. We can’t exactly relate to what others are experiencing and the choices they are making, but we can be respectful, empathetic, and act in love. We can do better.
As humans, we are wired to naturally gravitate to people that think like us, vote like us, worship like us, and share the same opinions as us. It is human nature to formulate your own narrative or agenda and dare not depart from it. The ability to have intelligent philosophical conversations with our family and friends is quickly becoming a lost art. We are often insistent that our views and opinions are only correct and we are unable to respectfully agree to disagree. The lack of civility and respect toward those we love and their beliefs is appalling. We can do better.
If you spend any amount of time on social media outlets, comments are being made to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that we would not have the audacity to say to them face to face. We frequently witness disassociating someone’s offline identity with their online identity causing them to speak in ways on issues that they would never do in real life. With the advent of social media, we are indirectly insulting others based on their views by the pictures and comments we share. People are resorting to these platforms to broadcast grievances for the world to see at an unprecedented scale. Social media has given us a megaphone to shout our narratives from the rooftops without being held responsible for our conduct. The moment that we are more concerned and known for what we oppose rather than what we are for, we all lose. We can do better.
As Christians, I wish we would have more purposeful interactions on social media platforms proclaiming the name of Christ rather than ranting about the latest news headline that day. Quite frankly, it’s been disheartening to see how those we love have responded to this pandemic. This “my way or the highway” mentality is quickly tearing friendships and relationships apart. We can do better.
It is my prayer that these times bring out the good in you as we all weather this storm together. Let our thoughts, words, and actions build each other up rather than tear each other down. As Christians, spreading negativity should not be our default, but rather sharing the good news of hope, love, joy, and peace. We will not always agree, we must carry ourselves in grace, love, and understanding. Let us learn to listen attentively to those we love and make a concerted effort to understand others, even when we disagree. Even when we are on opposite ends of the spectrum, we do share commonalties such as a love for Christ and a love for others. Let us exemplify Christ in all that we do. We can do better.
The following questions are designed to help us address common pitfalls and represent Christ to those that may not always agree with us.
1. Are we building each other up or tearing each other down?
Ephesians 4:9- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
2. Are we acting in love?
John 15:12-13- This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
3. Are we embodying the fruits of the spirit by our actions and words?
Galatians 5:22-23- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
4. Are we showing patience and understanding?
Proverbs 4:29- Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
5. Are we counting our brothers and sisters ahead of us?
Philippians 2:3- Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.