I attempted to watch from afar this week as our nation decided to rip itself across the aisle once again. It wasn’t the most adult way to handle things, I admit. But the thought of remaining glued to the news every minute of the work week just felt exhausting and also, that a week spent that way would probably just end in my watching that hilarious video of the kayaker being smacked in the face by an octopus wielding seal over and over and over. Well…that’s how I spent my week anyways, but at least it was just because that was genuinely hilarious and well worth my time and not because I was self-medicating intense grief with YouTube.
But you didn’t have to be glued to CSPAN this week to witness our blessed union being torn asunder one more time. And so, I like so many of the rest of us, watched with disbelief as our nation’s spiteful disgust for each other dominated our screens. It didn’t feel great.
And from that not great feeling I got smacked in the face, not with an octopus, but with two distinct truths. And just like the great line that divides the red states from the blue states, chances are one of these truths is bound to irk you, dear reader. And for that I apologize. If it makes you feel any better, they both irk me. Mostly because they convict my hardened heart and expose it for the judgmental, self-righteous and arrogant piece of flesh it is prone to be. But this year my church is spending the year with Jesus. (Yes, all churches are probably doing this but mine has a nifty campaign with a well-designed graphic with a Bible reading plan, so we are really spending a year with Jesus.) I watched this week unfold with Jesus on the mind and this is what I heard him whisper to me all week:
- It is completely possible to love someone whole-heartedly and not agree with or understand every piece of who they are.
This one kicks me where it hurts. You know why? Because I paint with a broad brush. I see the world as a black and white place and try very hard to ignore anything appearing even slightly greyish in hue. For years, I have only loved people whom I felt worthy of my love. (You are just going to have to bear with me for a while, because I know how arrogant this statement sounds.) When someone in my life made a decision I didn’t agree with, wronged me or someone else I loved, or just behaved in a way I thought was unseemly, they became cut off from my love. They received the full brunt of my disapproval with a severe tongue lashing or, even worse, the silent treatment. They certainly received none of my “likes”. They needed to know they had done wrong and how would they know if I didn’t completely sever ties? If I was completely honest I would have said expressing love for someone who is doing wrong is subconsciously giving their wrongdoing your approval.
Yuck. It makes me feel yucky and real embarrassed even admitting that truth. But it has been truth for me for many years. Until lately.
Lately I have found myself surrounded by people who are committed to loving even when they feel wronged or confused by the one they love. Lately I have found myself witnessing profound acts of grace, bestowed upon people, myself included, who don’t even come close to deserving it. Lately I have watched forgiveness in action. Lately I have studied Jesus interacting with those whom he loved. And for him, who was truly blameless, there was no amount of wrongdoing that precluded anyone from his love…even when they continued to walk away from it. In fact, we never see Jesus walk away from any one. We only witness some choosing to walk away from him. It is possible, and even a requirement of my faith, to love someone I don’t agree with, to stick around and to love.
Which leads me to the next truth I witnessed Jesus etch on my heart this week:
2. It is possible to be loved wholehearted by someone who doesn’t agree with you or completely understand you.
We, as a society and even more specifically as a generation, are very, very bad at disagreeing with one another. We have decided that someone disagreeing with our ideologies, our belief systems, is akin to them attacking and rejecting us as human beings. We walk around daring the people in our lives, on our news feeds, to disagree with us. We are hungry to call them out on their intolerance. We thirst to go viral for catching someone in the act of disagreeing with us. We fight trolls, fully knowing no one in the fight will walk away better for having suffered through the battle.
When innocently questioned on what we believe or when asked for more clarifying information about life decisions we have made, we mask our own insecurities and questions with bullhorns and protest signs. We don’t know what it means to debate anymore. We only wage war. We don’t know what it means to engage in political discourse. We only hurl grenades at the other side, from our fortification built on our side of the aisle.
We refuse to believe anyone who disagrees with us can have any love in their hearts for us and so we behave like children who are secretly and desperately craving to feel fully loved and accepted. We act out. We resort to name calling. We are simply just plain mean.
But it’s not true. (See Truth one above.) Someone can love you and not agree with what you believe. You should let them. Because Love is the great equalizer. Love receives questions as innocent requests for more information. Love tempers the blow when we realize someone who cares about us doesn’t see the world through our lens. Time and time again we watch Jesus pursue with great love those who he didn’t agree with. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who love.
We watched great strife inflicted upon our nation once more this week. We watched wrongdoing take place. We staunchly took our places on our respective sides of the aisle and dared the other side to plead their case.
Before you roll your eyes or line up your arguments, let me acknowledge there are no easy answers. There are no vaccines against the epidemic we face. There are no magic words. And yes, when treacherous injustice is rearing its ugly head, we must fight it back with whatever arms we possess!
But here is what I also know: We don’t have to go through the world with our arms crossed against our puffed out chests and our chins raised in defiance. We don’t have to walk around with our measuring sticks of morality brandished constantly and ready to issue pass/fail grades. We can choose to walk the world as Jesus did with open arms, kind eyes and peaceful steps.
We can choose to disagree well. We can choose to love fully and be fully loved. We can choose a better way.