This past holiday season was a tough one for many Americans. I doubt anyone would disagree that ours is a divisive period of history and such divisions have been bubbling up to full boil as Americans clash over widespread cultural and partisan divides.
In December, polling showed that two-thirds of vaccinated Americans planned to bar unvaccinated family members from holiday gatherings, while 58 percent said they’d cut off family members who wouldn’t get the vaccine. And yet it’s a two-way street. Half of unvaccinated respondents also said they’d stopped communicating with family members who question or harass them for not getting the shot.
Unfortunately, though, vaccination is not the only issue over which Americans are painfully split.
It’s been happening for years. As partisan identity politics dominates national discourse, Americans are decreasingly tolerant of differing views, and rhetoric surrounding religion, race, sexual ethics, and partisan loyalties is only getting more heated.
Yet while corporations and politicians stand to gain handsomely by way of engaging content and votes that play up our outrage and moral indignation towards one another, families and communities only stand to get torn apart if we forsake basic human decency and familial or neighborly bonds over partisan or ideological differences.
This is not to say we Christian moralists ought to forsake our commitment to speak God’s truth — far from it.
What I am saying is that the time has come for Christians to lead the charge in genuinely and sincerely loving our neighbors, regardless of ideological differences, and thus commit a radical political act in the face of those seeking to exploit our cultural divides.
It is time we start treating other Americans, whether online or in our personal lives, with the courtesy and grace that we’d like to be treated.
This is our most important witness here on earth and, I personally believe, the most powerful political tool that Christians have at our disposal.
In the scriptural account of Jesus’ ministry on earth, we are told of a time when he was asked by an expert in the law what he must do to inherit eternal life.
The Lord asked the man what the law said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Jesus replied that the man was correct, as the answer effectively encompassed the whole of biblical, Christian love, and then told him, “Do this, and you will live.”
However, wanting to justify himself, the man tried to split hairs on his answer.
“And who is my neighbor?”
This question resonates powerfully among a modern people who allow themselves to be divided along lines of group identity and politics rather than be defined by who God says we are to each other.
Jesus then replied to this lawyer by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a man is assaulted by robbers on the road to Jericho and passed by two Levite priests before a Samaritan happens along and immediately provides aid, tending to his wounds and paying an innkeeper handsomely out of his own pocket to take care of the wounded man.
The Jews despised the Samaritans and would have had nothing to do with them, yet members of the Levite priest class didn’t consider it worthy to help one of their own as he lay dying and bleeding on the road?
So, Jesus asked, “Which one of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man?”
The lawyer was forced to answer, “The one who showed compassion to him.”
Being a neighbor isn’t a geographic status, it’s an action. Radically loving God and loving others who were made in His image is the essence of the Christian life.
And it is this great commandment that we are seeking to worm our way out of, one way or another, when we sin against God or our neighbors.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is an account of a man who saw above tribalist divides to treat another person like a human being, regardless of their ethnicity or belief system, no questions asked.
Without question, today’s society is full of those who express tremendous hatred towards Christians, particularly Christians who believe in the founding philosophy of our great nation and the authority and objective morality of Scripture. And it is all too easy to feel justified in being bitter or harsh towards those who clumsily or rudely disagree with us about hot-button issues online or in person.
And yet today’s over-sensitivity towards ideological division is no excuse to leave our own grace in Christ at the door.
Yes, the most self-righteous progressives often come flying out of the gate swinging — I routinely get comments and messages online comprised of nothing more than expletives and logical fallacies deriding my views as “stupid,” “hateful,” or “archaic” with nothing further to offer by way of intelligent, respectful argument.
For this reason, I have spent entirely more time than I’d care to admit stressing about and engaging in unproductive bickering over ideas and ideology online.
This has often been, it turns out, an utter waste of time, for everyone involved.
Loving your neighbor means treating others like you want to be treated, even when they’re behaving like utter fools. (Luke 6:27, Romans 12:18, Ephesians 4:32)
In order to effectively share the Gospel and defend God’s truth in this time of utter spiritual crisis, we need to be engaging with our friends, family members, and strangers alike — but we need to be engaging in a manner that glorifies Christ.
Which means to be their neighbor.
Politely respond to dissenting views and listen as you’d like to be listened to. Explain your position with kindness and respect. An incredibly valuable tool in apologetics is to simply treat the person you’re trying to share the Gospel with as though you sincerely care about their thoughts and feelings rather than prowl haughtily around them, looking for opportunities to make them feel foolish and wrong.
People respond far better when you recognize that they probably have good intentions with their beliefs and probably have a sincere desire to know and do what is right. And in fact, if you keep in mind always how people have been blinded by censorship and political, media, and educational malfeasance and fear-mongering over the past several years, you’ll have a better understanding and empathy for why they believe and act the way they do. And remember too that many of the “woke” generation have never even heard the Gospel, but rather a perverted version of it, so they are spiritually blind too.
Every human being on this earth is made in God’s image and lives daily — whether they know it or not — with the reality that we are fallen from Him; this is one major reason that so many people flock to a progressive ideology that promises to right society’s wrongs.
Think about it: These days, the vast majority of people are being told that Christians and conservatives hate women, hate people of color, think they’re freaks and snowflakes, and want to turn America into “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Imagine the impact you can have by treating others like they’re human beings in need of grace and busting that lie wide open.
Loving on someone with whom you disagree is a radical act in America today. I have very good news for you — if your opinions are based on truth, the existence of other ideas can’t shake this truth. So, relax. God’s truth is true regardless of whether or not you convince someone else that it is.
You’ll make far greater strides in this regard if you act in His truth and obey His command to love your neighbor.
It is completely possible to comfortably abide in your own convictions and surrender no moral ground to others simply by graciously hearing their viewpoints and convictions, even their insults, and doing your best to peaceably abide with them all the same. (Romans 12:18)
Calm down. Ask questions. Be content not to answer every point. And if necessary, avoid politics and other hot-button topics altogether and look for common ground by simply asking about their well-being or their families or their favorite hobby.
Speak as you would like to be spoken to.
Love others as you love yourself.
If you are grieved and saddened by the walls going up between members of communities and families, I invite you, as a radical political act, to start politely engaging with them and showing them that a Christian is kind, polite, and patient when confronted with rudeness or hotly expressed differing opinions.
The common enemy of the American people are those who seek to empower and enrich themselves in a manner that is not in the overall best interest of the nation or its people (insert whomever you wish here) — and it is they who benefit most when we hate one another.
If you sincerely believe in the power of Christ to overcome evil, believe in the power of Christian America to overcome the seeds of division our enemies seek to sow among us.
Start loving your neighbor.