When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right. Joseph Brackett, Simple Gifts.
If you haven’t noticed the discord happening in America recently, you haven’t been watching… anything. Disagreements about racism, police, public health policy, and economic freedom have produced arguments, protests, and riots. As competing sides of those issues engage in debate, the positions become increasingly polarized. Listening and dialogue seem to have been replaced by demonstrations of power. Progress seems to be available only if one side can dominate the other to the point of abandoning its interests.
Whither Christians? Can we bring any peace to a warring America?
You may find yourself identifying with one side or another in these conversations. I believe there are devout brothers and sisters with many different points of view. But one thing we learned from our Master was how to engage with our neighbors, whether we consider them our family or our enemy. We are called to love them. It sounds foreign to the current tenor of the rhetoric. It is not foreign to those who walk in Christ.
The 19th century Shaker hymn above captures the unique quality we can bring to the current conflicts. We are simple folk, living out simple truth. As Christians, we have a gospel truth to proclaim, but our primary role is one of truth seeker, listener, and learner. We are experienced at listening. We are hesitant speakers. We are prepared to be found wrong. We delight in being corrected. Our egos are not at stake in these issues because our identity is preserved in Christ.
One of my daughters once said, “after you get the selfless love and humility thing down, people want to be with you.” I think she is right. Wherever you stand on the issues under discussion, I challenge you, Christian, to rise up in selfless love and humility. Confess your ignorance and your lack of understanding. Listen, learn, and delight in being instructed.
Then watch to see how others seek to join you in that.