- Tabitha Caplinger
Can we just stop, y'all?
* Warning, somewhat of a rant ahead. Proceed at your own risk. I tried to hold it in but I can't so I'm letting it all spill out. I am trying to be nice and encouraging with it though, so, there's that. Do with it what you will.
I am tired, y'all. I am sure some of you are too. I cannot be the only one who gets on social media or watches the news and wants to just curl up and give up and just watch Netflix and forget about life and the real world. (Don't freak out, I love Jesus and my hope is in Him so I'm not losing my salvation or faith or anything but it gets exhausting.)
Yesterday I noticed a trending hashtag on Twitter, #HowtoEvangelical. Now, I probably shouldn't have even looked. I knew what I was in for but I had too. Partly because one thing God has been dealing with me about lately is the need to listen to the points of view and perspectives of those who differ from me so that I can learn, so that I can have empathy and compassion, so that I can have intelligent, gracious conversations. So, I clicked and I scrolled and I read and my heart hurt.
Here's the thing, the hashtag was meant to bring sarcastic responses. It did. The conversation about white, and really all evangelicalism isn't a pretty one right now. People are hurt and their wounds are more exposed than ever. You can look at that one of two ways.
1. You can get offended and defensive. That is easy because I didn't agree with some of those statements and I knew at least some of them were from non-believers and so I could get angry and hurt myself if I wasn't careful. I mean I love the church and I know we aren't perfect but some of the statements were undeserved.
But, there's a number two here...
2. I could choose to see people through a lens of compassion. Sarcasm aside, people are hurting, they have been hurt by the church, by us. We may not have meant to but that doesn't change it. Maybe it wasn't me or you personally but does that really matter? I read those tweets and my heart just broke for those who have been wounded and for some those wounds pushed them away from Jesus and that should make our hearts hurt.
Here's the thing, in our political climate we have gotten so jaded that our hearts don't hurt like they should. We jump on political arguments and bandwagons and we justify it with our freedom of speech or a right to an opinion or whatever. You're big kids you know what I am saying here. We are all about being right, about winning the political or theological debate and we forget about living the Gospel. At its core the Gospel is the perfect balance of truth and love. You can't have one without the other. You don't get to speak truth without first loving.
(Sidenote here: You are allowed to have opinions. I have opinions. Lots of them. I share them on occasion. I'm sharing some right here, right now. But my opinion is not worth more than someone else's relationship with Jesus. I'm pretty sure I've said some variant of this line in another post but it bears repeating. You have a right to your opinion, to your political views, etc but you have a responsibility to the Gospel. (Now I know I said that before.) The debates and opinions are fine so long as I know that I know they aren't about fear and they aren't at the expense of the Gospel.)
So here's my plea. Love first, then offer the truth in love.
I've got a Bible story to go with this, in case you were still worried about the status of my faith. LOL
In the beginning of John chapter 4 we read about Jesus meeting the woman at the well. I think this is a great example of love needing to come first. Why? Because while, Jesus spoke some hard truth to this woman He showed her love first. He opened her heart before speaking the truth of her sin, brokenness and pain. How do I know? He went where she was.
Jesus didn't have to go through Samaria. Jews hated Samaria. They would take extra time and walk the long way around just to not go through Samaria, but Jesus went there. To this country, to this town where this woman would be. Don't tell me Jesus got to that town and that well at that time and it was all luck. He's Jesus. He knew what time it was. He knew what time everyone else would be at the well. His chances for a drink would have been better served at another time but he came when no one else would be there, no one but her. It wasn't coincidence (again, He's Jesus) it was Jesus caring enough about one woman to meet her where she was in her loneliness, in her shame, in her fear, in her bad circumstance. He stepped outside cultural norms to even be there to talk to her.
This man, a Jew, came to a place where others wouldn't come to talk to a woman others wouldn't talk to. That's love. After that He could speak truth to her, hard, painful truth because she knew it came from a place of love and grace and kindness, not some agenda.
That person you disagree with, that you debate with, that you dislike because they don't think or feel the same way you do, when's the last time you went where they are and showed them genuine love and kindness? Have you even tried to have compassion, to have empathy, to see things from their perspective, to understand them or are you just interested in making them agree with you?
We want to win the arguments. We want to be right. We want people to agree with us and I fear in the heated place our country is in we have begun to lose our compassion and empathy for those who don't.
I have some thoughts on what might help.
What if we spent more time sharing the love of Jesus and talking about His love for others than about politics? I mean it. What if we fasted all the political posts on our social media in exchange for love, encouragement and the Gospel. (Again, I'm not saying as Christians we aren't allowed to talk about politics. But why are you talking about it? Because you're scared of what might happen? Because you want to be right? Maybe taking a break from it, for a little while, and focusing on loving first might make more of a difference than political debate and posturing. If not for the world, for our own hearts.
What if we engaged in real conversation, not just online, but face to face with people who think differently than we do? What if we got to know people who believe differently so that we saw them as humans and not issues? What if we talked to them in a way that they felt heard and cared about rather than us just trying to be right? Let's talk to each other again, really talk and really listen rather than debate and argue. I want my brothers and sisters who are feeling the pain of abuse and injustice to be heard. I want to really hear you. (see also #ChurchToo and #QuietExodus)
What if we put others needs ahead of our own and ahead of our pride and fear? What if we thought about how we are affecting others? I think we want to have a positive impact on this world. But we forget that sometimes. We forget that often people begin to see Jesus in us before they will encounter Him personally and the Jesus they see in us will determine whether they encounter Him at all. I am even interested in the Jesus people see in me? Is that my most important thing? My main job is the Great Commission. Everything else is second. I am second.
What if we remembered that we are Jesus-followers before we are Americans? That the Gospel doesn't care about your nationality, your citizenship, your political party, your skin color, your gender...it cares about you. It is ready to meet you right where you are, exactly as you are.
Let's bring compassion back.
Let's stop saying we have a Biblical worldview and start actually acting like we do and treating people like we should and really seeing the world through the lens of the Gospel.
Man, I could go on but this is already real long and I think, I hope, it was enough for you to get my point and to hear my heart. At the end of the day I want to be less angry and less tired and more broken. I know that doesn't sound better but it is. I want my heart to break for people, even the ones lashing out or the ones who don't believe like me. I want to see them like Jesus does and to treat them like Jesus would. I want to learn to shut up and love first. To love well. To love deep. Then, when the truth comes it will bring healing and grace and freedom in a way that only God's Truth can.
(Final thought: the truth should be God's truth, not ours. I only feel the need to add that because sometimes we get confused. So before you go talking truth to someone make sure you know that it's the truth they need not just the truth you want/like. Okay, now I'm really done. Let's all go have pie or a lollipop and laugh at some funny cat videos or something. Here's a cat eating a lollipop to get the ball rolling.)