When I was a senior in high school, I walked in the door of my journalism class and met a teacher that changed my life.
It was her first year teaching and my last year of high school. She’s the reason I write, take chances and share my heart with the world. Back in 1991, my world was very black and white. This is wrong, this is right and if you don’t see it that way, you’re clearly doing it wrong. I used to think it was small town mentality, but I think it was probably just high school arrogance. I knew everything at age 17. #dontweall
But, Mrs. Todd said something to me one day that forever reshaped my thinking. “There is black and white and then there is the middle ground, the gray. And, the older you get, the bigger the gray.”
I think it’s primarily in the gray where we forget to have compassion, we lose sight of charity and we make non-salvation issues, issues. If you know what I mean.
This whole “staking your claim on an issue” has always been around, it is just wildly exacerbated with the advent of social media. We must have an opinion about something five seconds after it appears online and if anyone disagrees with us, they’re wrong. So, let’s just go ahead and gaslight them, send direct messages with bitter criticism and then shout from the rooftops how we’re right and all those poor souls are wrong. Our motto has become: WE MUST HAVE AN IMMEDIATE OPINION AND THEN YELL IT TO THE WORLD.
What the heck happened to charity? Unity? Right judgment? Prudence? Or, simply taking some time to pray and reflect before speaking? I mean, the world needs someone to set it straight, so it might as well be us, right?
If you need a refresher from St. Paul:
“I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”1 Cor 1:10
I see a deep, wide and growing chasm between the Gospel mindset and our hearts and words. We’re quick to point to a political, celebrity or activist figure before first checking in with the Gospels. We’re looking (and pointing) to a savior in the wrong places.
Yep. I said it.
If we’re all truthful, there is no political party, activist group or celebrity posse that fully embodies the moral code God calls us to live, each and every day. I keep looking around and wondering, where is Jesus in all of this?
It dismays me GREATLY that we have diminished people into categories rather than taking the time to say, “Wow, you and I seem to differ in a lot of ways. Can we have a conversation?”
Blame it on my southern roots, but kindness matters. Just ask my mama. Make no mistake, this absence of charity was around long before the pandemic. As we’ve sat in this unknown space for a while, it’s just given me more time to reflect upon it.
Good and healthy communities and countries engage in disagreement. It’s how things change and move forward when we confront our differences. I’m all for public discourse, but can we have civility for $1,000, Alex?
My path to Jesus is unique. It won’t look like yours, the voices that have vast influence on me, may simply have a passing influence on you. And, how I practice my faith may look nothing like yours.
It’s possible, and necessary, to be rooted in Christ and know what our role in the world is. It’s also possible to love and celebrate someone who’s forging their path to Christ with that same heart but manifests itself in a different way. The table is big enough for all of us. God is asking us to extend grace, while encouraging people to walk closer to Jesus, challenging them to be better and do better.
As the world feels heavier and heavier with each passing day as we grapple with the vastness of the gray, it’s my hope we can choose joy, charity, understanding and love. First, let it begin with us opening our ears, and our hearts, to those who are different than we are. Be not afraid of differences, or of challenges, for that is exactly what is written in the Gospels. We are commanded to encounter people, and in doing so, encounter Jesus. That encounter – if done the way Jesus intends – transforms us into a more obedient disciple. Not a judgey one, but a forgiving one.
That angry tweet, sarcastic comment or vitriol-laced direct message? It’s Jesus on the other end, y’all. And He demands more of us. More of me. More of you.
Perhaps we should start with sacrifical love for a priceless amount, Alex.