Emotions are high… and they have brought all of our passions, conceptions, misconceptions and ideologies to the surface. They cannot be ignored. What’s good about a collective heightened sense of awareness, is that it gets many needed conversations started between conflicting sentiments. What’s bad, is that there are so many ideas to be sorted and thought out, that we can easily loose sight of the principals that ought to guide our interactions in any given situation. We can forget that the love (as defined here) is the distinguishing virtue that separates sinners who have encountered the love of God,… from sinners who are hostile towards him (and/or do not understand that what makes sin = sin is is that it is an offense to their Creator.
So,… how do we lovingly engage one another when the comfort of common ground is pulled from under our feet? How can we attempt to understand one another when the ranges of our ethnicity, age, maturity and media feeds are so far and wide? How can we overcome the skepticism and suspicion of our neighbor, that so easily thwarts our attempts and desires to do good?
Common ground must be restored.
Define the Purpose of Engagement
Anytime we take something seriously, our words and actions are usually motivated by some goal or purpose… whether spoken or unspoken. But when we are offended, our emotions can lead us to say and do a lot of things that may not necessarily move us toward reaching an honorable goal. Let us take care to engage in a way that leads to a noble reconciliation. For those of us who claim to be followers of Christ, while we are imperfect, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation . This blows my mind! If you are reading this and you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus, his word tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ! This means that God makes his appeal, his order, his ways, to be known here on this earth,…through us!
Now, should we, after knowing this, make our goal and purpose to be anything else,…then we have received this grace in vain. Please indulge the following passage (emphasis mine):
“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” – 2 Corinthians 6:3-10
We have to make a choice here.
Our trust is called into question. Will we dare to trust the instructions that God has given us to navigate injustice, the sins of our neighbors… our own sins… while simultaneously being broken over the chaos around us? If we can resolve to trust God in this area (which will likely take lots of grace, honesty, prayer and some good friends to walk and talk through this with us), our purpose, is no longer our own, and is sure to be accomplished by God himself, and in his timing.
Come to yourself
Even with our purpose and goal clearly established, when the value of life itself is up for discussion, anger and/or rage are sure to be subsequent challenges. So, before we brave this conversation, we ought to do some self reflection. We have to take these large-scale issues down to an individual level. A research oncologist for example, will take a devastating cancer, and study it on the cellular level, in efforts to gain a most basic and fundamental knowledge of the destructive nature of the cancer that can and will smother the very life out of someone. If we want to understand the behavior and nature of oppression, we have to identify ways that we may have, by principle and not necessarily by degree, exhibited the very behaviors that disgust us. We have to study this disdain, by searching our own hearts. It’s going to hurt; but this is loving thing to do.
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
Most of my own frustrations and the frustrations of those that I hear from other people lately are as follows:
1.) The lack of accountability that police officers have when they senselessly and consistently murder, profile and/or mistreat minorities, more specifically, the historically consistent, and in most recent nationally publicized events, Black people (aka African-Americans);
2) The disbelief of a systematic oppression of African- Americans;
3) Unhelpful and reckless stewardship of words, from media on both small and large scales that misrepresent and propagate half truths and complete untruths about African-Americans
We must have 3 complimentary conversations with ourselves to personalize the above listed frustrations:
1) Have you ever done anything questionable or wrong, or said anything unnecessarily demeaning or untrue against someone (anyone,…from a homeless man, to a neighbor, to a president hopeful #lol , I think you see where I’m going here) that God has created, knowing that no one (that you would consider a threat anyway) would call you out on your “dirt,” and without your goal being to pursue justice, love kindness and walking humbly with God (I’m not talking wounds from a friend here)? Is there something questionable that you do behind closed doors (it doesn’t have to be culturally horrendous here… for example, it could be as simple as poor stewardship over diet or finances) not expecting someone to hold you accountable via a Facebook Live video for example?
2) Have you ever been in a position of power (professionally, socially, organizationally, by association with anyone, by association with a spouse, a group of people, or within a family)and used that power in such a way that you demoted, isolated, silenced, misused, discredited or discriminated against someone, who for whatever reason was “not as valuable,” didn’t have a platform in that context to be heard, and/or considered a “pawn” by this world’s flawed standards? Have you ever,…by your actions or inaction… denied someone the opportunity to flourish in their God-given gifts and talents that He gave them, so that He might receive glory from them?
3) Have you ever gone on an irresponsible rant about someone? Have you gossiped (spread rumors or unkind stories about a person)? Have you slandered (told hurtful lies or rumors/ falsely accused a person of wrong doing)? Have you overused sarcasm at expense of someone else or agroup of people? Again, I do not mean sharing responsibly with the goal of reconciliation in mind. This is completely different and a necessary skill for resolving conflict and making peace (just as we must talk about hard things and hard history in order to accomplish our goal of reconciliation). I specifically mean gossip, slander and words that do not build up, but tear down, without giving grace to the hearers here.
Asking ourselves these questions can serve to disarm us of our own pride and ignorance, so that we can clearly see and effectively help to disarm our neighbors of the same ills. If you’ve admitted to any of the above soul-searching questions, it does not undermine the validity of your concerns or your anger. It actually helps to recallibrate the way you see the ones who are causing your anger and frustration. And this is glorious evidence of a different way at work within us, of a different kingdom being made known here on this earth [insert celebratory emoji here]!
Realizing that certain sins are not exclusive to a particular group levels the playing field for the conversation. We all sin and commit many of the same sins in different ways, to different degrees and in different contexts.
Our common ground is restored by seeing that we are each made with dignity and that we each, at times do not recognize this in ourselves and/or in others, which causes us to undermine that dignity.
A man named Jesus lead the way in this charge for humility, though He had every right not to.
Insist on the Mutual Inclusivity of Grace and Truth
Grace without truth is deceitful; and truth without grace is discrediting.
As we have conversations with one another, the truth of history, statistics and ultimately of God’s word must guide us to the end of reconciliation. We need statistics and history because they are often the most reliable data to help us come to grips with the continuum that lands us in our current reality. It’s only logical.
Let us apply our logic to the state of our country in the areas of mass injustice, just as we would in any other area that might not make us feel as uncomfortable. For example, for those of us who advocate “pro-life,” the following should be a logical (not a culturally conditioned) no-brainer: “life” in the word “pro-life” exists both inside and out of the womb, so pro-life sentiments should apply in instances of both abortion and homicide… that’s logical, right? We need truth. Without it, we give our ignorance permission to masquerade as justification for our prejudices not to be examined.
And oh for grace! We ought to give each other grace that comes from an honest place,… a place that knows we too are in desperate need of love and kindness in the midst of our shortcomings. Grace, that I often cannot comprehend, is a great equalizer and conductor of reconciliation amidst conflict and hostility. What is amazing about grace, is that it is a one way transaction. It is given without the expectation of reciprocation. By going into a difficult conversation, leading out with grace, we guard our hearts, having already managed our expectations.
Grace and truth must coexist.
In the storms of life and in this one in particular, if you identify yourself as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ,…
We must cling to our faith, we must hope for change; all the while being in pursuit of loving well, knowing it is superior to the latter two as ultimate aims,…because it is the very tool used to accomplish them.
If you do not identify as a follower of Jesus Christ and would like to know more, send us an email to email@example.com ; and in the mean time, you can check out our ABOUT US page to know more.
Of Ashes and Beauty