To say these are times of discord and division in the U.S. is an understatement. The conflict around us is compounded by the physical distancing that the Covid pandemic has created. All the new restrictions have created animosity between the fearful and those who chose to push back against the intrusions in their lives. On top of that, it is an election year: people are taking sides politically and the rhetoric is highly charged. The sociological and philosophical differences between people are stark. (I can only imagine the atmosphere during the American Civil War (1860-65) was much the same.)
We must find a way to live with one another in a very toxic and combustable environment. Jesus is the way! I believe the light of Jesus’ life in us can and should shine brightest right now.
As a responsible citizen I try and stay up on current events. It is a constant chore to discern the truth from lies. But I am more challenged by the temptation to despise those who do not believe and act as I do. A wise person once said, “You can’t attract what you despise.” Our adversary, the devil, is into separating – driving wedges between people. If there was ever a time we should be moving toward others who live in darkness it is now. The Bible informs us, our battle is not with flesh and blood. Those who are rioting, looting, lying and performing all sorts of evil are blinded by the god of this world. They walk in darkness. They don’t understand what they are doing and why. God spoke to Jonah about the Ninevites, a notoriously wicked people, saying, “[they] don’t know the difference between their right and left hand.” Yet, God, in His amazing grace, gave them an opportunity to repent… and they did.
I don’t want to be infected with the prejudice and self-righteousness of Jonah who not only had contempt for the wicked Ninevites, but was angry with God for having compassion on them. Jesus didn’t hate those who crucified Him. He forgave them because they did it in ignorance – “They know not what they do.” His message to us is clear, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27,28
Our response in this present dark period should be as stark and conspicuous as the reactions of people to others who do not share their beliefs. I am not as interested in being on the right side as I am finding the right opportunity to let Jesus shine. We are blessed as peacemakers. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” The remedy to the present chaos around us starts with us – the sons of light.
Think about Saul, the chief terrorist of the early Church. When Ananias was sent to pray for Saul (Acts 9), he had pause because of the reputation that preceded him. (Who would blame Ananias – he was risking his life.) God graciously confirmed His purpose for Saul’s life. Someone(s) loved, prayed and blessed Saul while he was ravaging the church. He became an example of the long-suffering of God.
The love of God and the Great Commission move us towards people. We engage the world that hates God and all who belong to Him without fear or intimidation, without prejudice or contempt. To be like God (godliness) is to embrace those who want nothing to do with you. During this time of civil unrest in our country, resist the urge to take sides (politically, socially, morally) and distance yourself from others who don’t think like you. The seeds of goodness, kindness, mercy and the Word of God are more powerful than the present darkness.
Rm.12:20, 21 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he thirsty, give him to drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Addendum: In his book, Be a People Person, John Maxwell lists five assumptions we can make about people generally. People want to be Encouraged, Appreciated, Forgiven, Listened to, and Understood. When we relate to others in these ways we will become very sticky. People will be attracted to you.