I have been conflicted for a long time now. I struggle with this inner turmoil on an almost daily basis. I have spent my whole life, and most of my marriage, trying to avoid conflict at all cost. I hate it. Conflict that is. There is always this balance of seeking peace, but not at the expense of truth. I’ve written on the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking before, so I won’t bore you with a review. But I find within myself this battle again, for both peace and truth.
I have friends with vastly differing religious and political views, many of whom I am certain I have offended at some point in the last twenty months. According to Aristotle, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Unfortunately, that’s not really on the table for me. No two people think exactly alike on every single subject. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that tends to polarize those who disagree. I voted for Trump, and I would do it again, but I can still be friends with you if you voted for Resident Joe. I might make jokes and tease you about it, but I can still respect you and be friends with you. I refuse to wear a mask anymore and I will never ever, ever, get the jab. However, I have friends and family who do and who have. I don’t disrespect them or love them any less.
My struggle lies in the fact that not everyone offers the same freedom of thought. One of my favorite memes this year says, “People don’t want to hear your opinion, they want to hear their opinion, coming out of your mouth.” And sadly, it’s more true than we’d like to admit. But your opinion is just that, your opinion. It’s not mine. Funny though, how so many of us think we have it all so figured out, that we believe our opinion is the right opinion. We believe that our approach to religion, politics, or life is the right approach. Most of the people who don’t appreciate what I have to say, would not object to me saying something if it lined up with what they thought was true, even if that offended someone else. None of us have it totally figured out and I really, really, really hope I’m wrong about some things. And I acknowledge that I haven’t been flawless in my presentation of what I believe to be true. But is anyone? Why do I feel like I am being held to a higher standard? Why do people who know me and know my heart, all of the sudden question my love? I know social media isn’t an ideal means of communication by any standard, but if we all acknowledge that, why isn’t extra grace extended for possible misinterpretation of tone or intent?
All of this leads me to an unending contemplation of the church’s quest for neutrality. I was reading an article the other day on Presuppositional Apologetics (link below) and they discussed the fact that in Apologetics, and even Christianity, there is an attempt to find a neutral ground from which to “win” someone over. But even “the attempt to find it assumes that there is somewhere outside of God from which man can judge God.” Our perceptions of life are based on our worldview. If our worldview is based on God being the author and finisher of our faith, the beginning and the end, the one true God, and we set that aside in an effort to see someone else’s “perspective,” that is based on their own mis-shaped worldview, we have just given up the basis for speaking what we know to be true. We are offering to see their perspective based on their worldview, instead of addressing the untruths in their worldview! We are inevitably laying down the truth, in an effort to lead them to the truth!
I am responsible for my own walk with God. Father has always spoken to me through what I would call impressions, I guess. This weight, or knowledge, or compulsion. I feel compelled to obey until I surrender and actually obey. I can resist, but to what end? I learned a long time ago that if you continually ignore God’s voice, He speaks to you less and less. I don’t want that. And, while most of the things I have been vocal about this last year may not be straight out of the Bible, they are directly related to things in the Bible: liberty, justice, truth, kindness. I’ve been reminded so many times that we should focus on the lost instead of politics, ironically, by people not actively pursuing the lost, but I digress. Micah 6:8 tells us what the Lord requires of us: “to do justice, and to love kindness.” What if I feel like shutting small businesses down while allowing the big ones to dominate is unjust? What if I believe that mask mandates could have life-long impacts on the physical and mental health of our children? That is neither just nor kind. I also think that firing the heroes that got us through the scary first year of this unknown “pandemic,” for not participating in an experiment, is an unjust denial of their personal liberty. Freedoms and rights that they laid down in order to protect us. What if I believe that BLM is manipulating people with a cry for “social justice” when really their intent is to stir up division and strife? What if I don’t think calling someone by their preferred pronouns is doing them any favors, let alone being kind or honest? Or worse yet, what if I truly believed that the current experimental “treatment” could hurt the people I love? Is staying neutral, shutting my mouth, and “being nice” the right thing to do? What if I’m not as wrong as I hope, and people I love get hurt, but I was too busy being worried about hurting their feelings to warn them? Could I live with that? The last half of the verse in Micah says, “…and to walk humbly with your God.” I promise you, I don’t want to be right about a lot of the things I believe are taking place in America right now. And, if I am wrong, I will publicly acknowledge and apologize for any offense I caused in my efforts to warn people. I’m not so proud that I think I’ve got it all figured out. The one thing I do know, is that if I keep what I believe to be the truth to myself, out of the fear of offending the people around me, and it turns out to be true, I would be guilty. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin.”
1 John 3:18 says, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” If my words have offended you, I truly am sorry. I have lost sleep worrying about offending people, my own reputation, about losing peoples’ respect, and injuring friendships. I try to speak truth in love and sometimes I fail. I get worked up because of all the evidence I have seen, that others refuse to see. I’m human. I’m going to screw up. But if all of my failed attempts to reach you tell you anything about me, let it be the fact that I love you. If there was a storm coming and I didn’t bother trying to wake you, but just let you sleep and found somewhere safe for myself, that would not be cool.
I know God is ultimately in control and I trust Him with my life and the lives of my family, however long or short they might be. But by His design, actions carry consequences. I’m nervous about the consequences we are going to face for being taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8); for believing the enemy’s lies that we are called to “be nice” rather than to speak the truth in love; for our attempts to stay neutral on things that God is not neutral on; for not pursuing justice, and for trying to be like the world in an attempt to win the world. We have sat on the sidelines for too long in a battle we are called to fight in. It might not be against flesh and blood, but it’s being played out here on earth, among the flesh and blood we love. We must choose a side, or are we really even in the fight?
Jesus offered no neutrality, in Matthew 12:30 he says, “he who is not with Me is against me.”
James 4:4, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Jesus didn’t shy away from conflict, and He spoke the truth even when it was uncomfortable for the hearer. I hope that my love is as obvious as my passion for truth. I promise to keep working on that balance, but I refuse to pursue neutrality in a world dying for lack of truth. Again, I John 3:18, “… let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” We can strive to spare the feelings of our brothers and sisters at the expense of our own convictions, or we can seek unity (not uniformity) despite difference of thoughts and/or convictions. We can attempt to accommodate the misguided perspectives of the lost, or we can pursue their souls as Jesus did, by speaking the truth in love.