Updated: May 18, 2020
This past year was a tough year for a lot of people. It seems that we could characterize the year by division – in our country, in the church, maybe even within our own families. Facebook has become a place of angry rants and heated debates, we’ve heard a lot of belittling and criticizing, and there are families that haven’t wanted to be in the same room as each other because they fear that conversation about political issues will come up and it’ll turn into a dirty argument.
We see people placing themselves or others in different camps. Are they pro-choice or pro-life? Do they want to build a wall or have open borders? Do they support police officers or believe that Black Lives Matter? We’ve heard conservative and liberal thrown around a lot, not just as a way of describing a person’s political leanings, but as a label meant to determine the value or credibility of a person.
What is the point of all this? What is the point of the debates and arguments when they aren’t leading anyone to truth, they aren’t bringing anyone together, they aren’t moving us toward solutions? If our goal is just to be right and to prove anyone wrong who disagrees with us, all we will find at the end of that is a trail of broken relationships.
There has to be another way.
It’s human nature to choose sides because we feel most comfortable when things are black and white, when there’s a clear cut right and wrong, when we know who is good and who is bad.
But what if instead of choosing sides, we chose to be on the side of grace?
What if we could find middle ground? What if we could we could listen and seek to understand those with different opinions? What if we made time to hear the stories of those who come from different backgrounds, to hear their pain and struggle, their hopes and dreams? What if we could admit that we have our own pain and struggle and that we don’t have all the answers? What if we chose to ascribe value and dignity to those who believe differently than us?
We all have our own opinions and perspectives and there is something to be learned from each one, but we can only do that if we stop placing ourselves as the ultimate judge of who is right and who is wrong and stop assuming negative motives of anyone who doesn’t agree with us.
I believe that it is possible to have strong convictions, to hold a view of right and wrong, while also choosing to extend grace. We can stand up for something we believe in and speak truth without standing against other people.
We can stand in the middle. We can seek to understand both sides. We can see both the good and the bad in each side. We can affirm the good intentions or the pain and suffering of each person.
How do we do this? How do we stand on the side of grace? We need to start with some self-reflection.
We need to have a humble view of ourselves. I have to recognize my own sin and brokenness. I need to be aware of my insecurities and my pain and how I act and react out of those places. I need to know that I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everyone else’s story, and my story is not the only one that needs to be told.
We also need to be aware of the filters that we see others through. What are the labels that I am placing on people? What are the criticisms that I have for those I don’t agree with or who are different than me? Am I making judgments about a person’s motives simply because of a group they identify with or a statement they’ve made? Or have I taken the time to get to know their heart and try to understand where they’re coming from? Am I able to see the good in this person even though I don’t agree with what they believe or stand up for?
Then, we can ask God to move our heart toward compassion. Sometimes the actions or words of another person are going to hurt us or make us angry. It’s ok to feel those things. It’s actually good to let ourselves feel those things. But we don’t want to get stuck there. We have to process through those emotions and then we have to let our hearts be moved toward compassion. Can I let my heart break for the people who make me angry and those who disagree with me? Can I let go of my pain or my pride long enough to see the pain and the brokenness and the missed opportunities of those I consider my enemies?
If we can start there, then we might have opportunities for fruitful conversations and relationships that are going to lead us closer to truth, healing, and solutions.