Name the issue, Covid-19, racism, white privilege, vaccinations, etcetera, and you’ll find a vast amount of information with a wide variety of opinions out there.
Let me start by saying this post is not going to add to the arguments that abound everywhere.
I’ll let smarter people with more information, more experience, and better writing skills than I have feed the blogosphere with their insights on these topics.
Of course, I have opinions. Lots of them! And I’m not afraid to share mine or take a position.
But this is not about that.
This blog is about our hearts.
So, I have a couple of questions I’d like you to consider:
1. Whether your friend, neighbor, or pastor is right or wrong regarding an issue, will you first and foremost love others?
Before you answer that question too quickly, stop and consider something with me: It’s easy to say yes, but far more challenging to love someone you disagree with. I tend to like the people who think like me and believe like me. But loving a person who is on the opposite end of an issue is often tough. Real tough.
By the way, it’s okay to disagree. Unity is not uniformity, and healthy debate is good. However, without love, nothing else matters.
According to Paul, love does rejoice with the truth (of course, truth matters), but it is also patient, kind, humble, honoring, not self-seeking, not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.
For Christ-followers, choosing to love above all isn’t optional. Regrettably, loving one another isn’t easy when there’s strong disagreement. Perhaps, if being right is more important to you than being relational, you might be a modern-day Pharisee.
2. Will you offer grace and compassion to those who feel terrified, angry, grief-stricken, or hopeless?
Even if you think someone is wrong, you can show mercy and offer compassion without showing approval. You can seek to listen and understand without seeking to excuse.
If someone is hurting and afraid, my first response shouldn’t be to correct them but to comfort them with a gentle heart.
Here’s what the Word says should happen even if I catch someone with their pants down: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should gently restore that person. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2, NIV)
The “law of Christ” means treating others how I would want to be treated and loving my neighbor as I love myself.
Why are we so quick to correct as we try to remove the speck from another’s eye?
Are you the parent who first scolds your son for being reckless and skinning his knees when he falls, or do you weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn? There is a time for correction and instruction, but not when someone is hurting and bleeding.
I don’t ignore unholy and unhealthy fear in someone regarding a virus. I don’t excuse a rioter who gets violent and harms another.
But can I look with a broken heart at even the sinful actions of someone and wonder: What level of pain and hopelessness leads someone to react in such a destructive or fearful way?
Will I allow the pain someone feels (rational, justified, or not) to drive me to my knees in prayer before I stand for up for my rights?
If you find yourself frustrated by others, and put off by what you consider irrational beliefs or unreasonable fears, how is your bad and negative attitude truly helping anyone (including you)?
If you are angry and irritable over what’s happening, how is your indignation changing anything? Remember, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
If your heart is not at least a little bit broken over the angst of those of color in our culture who are distressed, is it possible you’ve grown a bit hard-hearted?
Here’s my point, regardless of what you think or feel or believe about whatever, if there are no tears in your eyes and no ache in your heart—why not?
I cannot imagine Jesus shaking His head in animosity toward the broken. Matthew gives us this insight, “When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36, TPT)
The division, suffering, and sin in our country breaks the heart of God. However, He is not angry at anyone. Jesus took the brunt of God’s wrath on the cross. Our Father is full of compassion for all of us—even those who are completely messed up.
Are you moved with compassion or self-righteous outrage?
Tony Dungy recently wrote, “We are a divided country. We’re divided racially, politically, and socio-economically. And Satan is laughing at us because that is exactly what he wants. Dysfunction, mistrust, and hatred help his kingdom flourish.”
So what should be the response of those who follow Jesus in troubling times?
- Compassion before criticalness.
- Tears rather than testiness.
- Goodness in place of grumpiness.
At times, we must simply agree to disagree. Yes, there is a place for humble correction when needed and for speaking the truth in love. Nonetheless, Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you (and me), live at peace with everyone.”
To live at peace does not mean I compromise my convictions, but it does mean I practice compassion and pursue the path of love even when—especially when—there is disagreement.
Mercy and grace toward others are how we reflect the hope of Christ to a watching world.