A friend of mine was troubled the other day. She said to me, “It’s as if people are saying, ‘If we don’t agree with each other, we can’t like each other.’” This would be troubling under any circumstances – but it is devastating when you realize we were talking about the response among Christians to the current events happening in the U.S.
At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus said that – and he did that. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). He loved Judas who betrayed him and Peter who denied him and the rest of the apostles who fled into the darkness of Gethsemane. And today, he loves you and he loves me.
How harsh it is that many in the Church today are not only failing to love one another – we are failing to even like one another! We are finding ourselves divided based on our political affiliations, our opinions about the coronavirus pandemic, what we think about racism, whether we support the ongoing protests, and more. And when I say “divided,” I mean DIVIDED. Divided by anger, by hurtful words, by grudges and grievances, by disrespect, by insults, by assumptions, and by pride.
There are also times when we are divided simply by silence ... the awkward moment when we realize we have a different view on an issue than the other person, so we choose to change the topic of conversation because we don’t feel like we can talk about the issue with mutual love and respect. But the awkwardness lingers even after the moment has passed, and we realize that even a mutual agreement not to talk about a topic divides rather than unites.
The events of today are bringing all the dross in our souls to the surface. Will we let that dross be burned away so that we can shine as pure gold? I won’t soften the truth – confronting our sin hurts. Sin is ugly and the refining fire of God’s holiness is often painful. But it is eternally worth it.
As we consider how we are interacting with others on the issues that are troubling our country and our world, let’s ask ourselves questions based on Ephesians 4:1-3 –
Am I walking in a manner worthy of the calling with which I have been called?
Am I demonstrating humility at all times?
Am I treating others with gentleness?
Am I patient with people who don’t share my view?
Am I showing tolerance and love to everyone around me?
Am I being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?