So I wanted to post this a few weeks ago around July 4 weekend, but kept second guessing myself. At the time I was just going to talk about division, specifically the regarding the current presidential race. But the longer I waited, the more craziness happened in the world. I don’t know about you but I feel like we, as a country, are more divided than ever. I have never seen more anger, fear, confusion and unrest be as widespread as it is now. My guess is some of you right now at this moment are angry. Afraid. Confused. Anxious. Worried. And you are not alone.
As we get closer to the election, every politician and political party will claim to have the ultimate cure-all for every issue, but it is only a claim. I totally agree there needs to be some change but it starts with individuals, not with a collective decree by an out-of-touch politician that only wants votes. It starts with you.
Bad things happen. ISIS attacks. The shootings in Orlando. Civilians killed by law enforcement. Deaths of policemen whose only crime was being a policeman. School shootings. It seems like every day there is something new and it is overhwhelmingly sad what people do to each other when they….disagree.
That’s what a lot of these horrific acts stem from: disagreements. Disagreeing with someone based on their religion, their sexuality, their race, their job, their choices, their friends (or lack thereof)…disagreements in the hands of extremists and radicals is what is causing this. People thinking they are right and someone else is wrong, then taking judgment into their own hands…and lacking any respect or value to human life.
And then…what happens after that? More disagreement. More argument. More condemnation of an entire group of people based on…their religion, sexuality, job, choices, etc. Sound familiar? Suddenly “all Christians hate homosexuals” or “all white policemen are racist” or “all democrats love Muslims.” Frankly some of the responses people have bother me as much as the incidents themselves. More judgment. More division. More confusion and hate and anger and fear….
We cannot prevent anything bad from ever happening but we can control how we respond. As a follower of Christ, how should YOU respond? You need to understand 3 Things:
1. Different Opinions are OK
How can you ever expect anyone to respect your opinion if you don’t respect theirs? We are made up of different races, religions, social standings, backgrounds, wealth classes, regions and cultures and it is insane to think that everyone will think the same way you do. I have never known what it means to be anything but white in America, so how can I possibly understand what it means to be African-American? How can someone understand what it means to be a Christian if they have never experienced love of others, like in a Christian home or at a church? Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” We need to have a little more understanding and empathy first and foremost.
Empathy is a powerful tool – it is not sympathy, though many people confuse the two. Sympathy means you feel sorry for someone or that you pity them. But empathy means you try to put yourself in their shoes. People who are empathetic seem to naturally be more respectful of other people and less judgmental…but being empathetic doesn’t mean you have to totally agree with everyone else because….
2. Being Tolerant Doesn’t Have to Mean Being Supportive
Newsflash!: You can empathize with someone, even love someone, whose lifestyle you do not support.
Newsflash!: Just because you are tolerant, doesn’t mean you have to go to rallies or show an outpouring of support for something you don’t personally believe in.
It seems like nowadays you are viewed as all or nothing…if you are not changing your profile picture on Facebook to a rainbow flag, you must hate gay people. If you don’t like Obama, then you must be racist (yes, this was a real argument back in 2008 when he was running for president). If you don’t want to destroy the Middle East with bombs, you must be anti-military.
THIS NEEDS TO STOP. If you are someone who has been labeled this way, you need to know you are 100% entitled to your own opinion and do not be ashamed of that. Be educated, both in world events and your Bible studies. Know who you are, what you believe and do not be swayed. People are not categorized like on/off switches. We are more like dimmers…there is a lot of in between.
Here’s another newsflash…If you don’t like someone, you don’t have to be around them. That’s right – if there is a friend at school who thinks differently than you do, you do not have to be their friend! If someone is posting inflammatory things on social media, you don’t have to look at it! Why don’t YOU make the choice to distance yourself from it instead of try to make everyone think and act just like you?
If your opinion is causing someone else hurt and pain, you need to rethink your actions. Note, I did not say your opinion; you are allowed to have that. If someone else’s opinion is causing YOU pain, don’t respond with causing someone else pain. The easy response is to retaliate; anyone can do that. It is a lot harder to be the bigger person and understand that Pain plus Pain will never equal healing.
To be continued……
#JournalJourney: What do you think is missing from this list? We will talk about #3 on Monday but if you were writing #3, what would it be? What else do you think we need to do as believers to those around us?