I’m 35 years old and in my young life I don’t recall a time where I have ever seen America more divided. It seems like every time I turn on the TV or log onto some form of social media my eyes are blitzed with the latest topic or tragedy that is at best being hotly debated and at worst physically fought over.
Every week seems like a cage match between two competing people groups, cultures, or ideas that implore me to choose a side.
Recently, the topic being argued is Police brutality against minorities vs. Police safety from demonstrating minorities. I’m asked to choose between backing Black or backing Blue.
Before this past week, after the horrible shootings in Orlando, the choice was given between protecting our 2nd amendment rights or standing up for stricter gun laws to protect innocent citizens.
Even as I look back beyond the events of this past week, I find still an ever-increasing divided culture that draws lines in the sand on a particular topic and then waits for me to choose their side. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground or moderate path forward as the two competing groups on any given topic seem to take an all or nothing approach to their side. Allow me to take a trip down memory lane and dredge up some of the heated debates our society has fought over in the last couple of years.
In no particular order, I have been asked to choose between:
– Compassion toward European Refugees or safety toward our families.
– Neo Liberal Hillary Clinton or Neo Conservative Donald Trump.
– Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter
– Bathroom Bills to protect traditional families or the blocking of Bathroom Bills to protect Transgendered minorities.
– The removal of all Muslims from this country to protect against religious extremists or protecting the religious freedoms of Muslims in this country and understanding that all religions have their unhealthy extremes.
– Protecting traditional marriage values as laid out by the Bible or protecting the rights of the LGBT minorities in this country.
– Building a wall to keep Illegal immigrants out from Mexico or showing compassion to those looking for a better life.
– The rights of the 1% or the rights of the 99%
– Government protection or government intrusion.
– The rights of the group or the rights of the individual.
The list could honestly go on and on and on. It just seems like this pattern continues to take place in our society where an event triggers a debate, which then triggers people taking sides, which then leads to an unhealthy war of words and ideas. Both sides view themselves as the minority. Fingers are pointed. People are ostracized. Names are called. Division deepens. Moderates are destroyed.
So what is the point of this blog you might ask? Why write about all of this?
Is it to say that we are not to have our opinions? Nope. I can assuredly say that I have my opinions on each of the topics listed above.
Is it to say that we are not to express our opinions? No again. When done with respect, debate can actually lead to better understanding. We shouldn’t have to agree to still show respect.
Am I writing this to say we should compromise our beliefs in order to have better unity? Again, no. Each person has a God given right to his or her beliefs. The moment we begin to compromise our beliefs for some “greater good” is the moment that we lose our humanity.
I’m writing this blog because for a long time, as each new topic comes up, I have asked myself, “How would Jesus Christ handle all of this?” As a Christ follower, I believe that my ultimate pattern for living stems from the life and words of the man I call my savior. How He would respond is how I should respond. How He treated people is how I should treat people. I truly do believe that the scriptures that were written thousands of years ago can still apply to my life today.
As I looked through the scriptures focused on the life of Christ, I found a man that deeply challenged me to stretch beyond my boundaries and my comfort.
As I searched the scriptures, I found a Christ that stood fully on the truth. There was no compromise in Him.
I also found a Christ that was deeply compassionate toward the heartache and suffering of humanity.
This search for Christ led me to one of the defining scriptures that showcased the heart of Jesus.
John 1:14 – The Word became flesh (Jesus) and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Did you catch that last part? That verse said that Jesus was full of Grace AND truth.
That word “AND” is the word that challenges me the most. That word “AND” means that somehow, someway, Jesus Christ fully embraced truth without compromise but still had a heart to love and lift up sinful humanity.
The challenge of the word “AND” is that we currently live in an “OR” society.
Let me say that again. Today’s society lives in an “OR” mentality, where we are constantly asked to choose between some form of truth and some form of compassion. Even our most complicated issues, like the ones listed at the first part of this blog, have themes of truth and grace intermingled and often times are actually pitted against each other.
The problem with the “OR” mentality is that it was never the heart of my savior, Jesus Christ. When it came to truth and grace, Jesus Christ had, and still has, an “AND” heart. That somehow He was fully committed to the truth and also still committed to a grace that I will never understand and don’t deserve.
In fact, as I reviewed the life of Jesus Christ, every time I thought I had Him pegged in either the Truth or the Grace category He would always surprise me to show both
The same Jesus who said, “I have come that you might have life” (John 10:10, is the same Jesus who said, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38)
The same Jesus who said “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14) is the same Jesus who said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
The same Jesus who said, “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1) is the same Jesus who said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11)
The same Jesus who healed the blind men’s eyes (John 9) is also the Jesus who overturned tables at the temple (Matthew 21)
The same Jesus who declared He was the Son of God (John 4) is the same Jesus who died on a cross for us. (Luke 23)
In fact, take a moment and look at this scripture that talks about how Jesus was both fully committed to Truth but fully committed to Grace.
It’s found in Philippians 2:6-8
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
This is my Jesus! This is my God! He didn’t compromise Grace or Truth to be who He was. He wasn’t 50% truth and 50% grace. He was fully Truth AND fully Grace in every situation he encountered!
And he calls me to do the same.
For every debate, situation, argument, or fight that happens I am not asked to be “OR”. If I am to follow the pattern of my savior I must be an “AND.”
This means I must fully follow truth and not have one ounce of compromise in it. Grace minus Truth = Chaos (There are no boundaries)
This also means that I don’t have the luxury to strictly just stand on my truth and hope that other people will someone follow. Truth minus Grace = Arrogance (People become blind to their own shortfalls)
So with this in mind, Christ asks me to something incredibly hard. He asks me to follow in his footsteps and show “AND” to an “OR” society.
For me, this means more work, stretching, and growing that I have ever done in my life.
Can I be specific about how being “AND” plays out in my life?
– It means that for every truth I stand on that I must also have equal parts compassionate action to go with it or otherwise I am out of balance. (Jesus was both 100% full of grace and 100% full of truth. He was equal parts)
– It means that I must find ways to serve those who disagree with me. (Think about what Jesus did to Judas when he washed his feet)
– It means that my Truth must never be afraid to get its hands dirty. (Truth does not have to equal distance from those who disagree with me)
– It means that my Grace doesn’t have to compromise to be effective. (True Grace highlights the strength of someone stronger that me. The strength of a savior)
– It means that my opinions can never allow me to overlook the humanity of someone from a differing opinion. (Christ died for all, not just those who agree with me)
– It means that, in order for me to live out the life of an “AND,” that I must die to my selfish desires and draw strength from someone much greater than me. (Everyday I’m still in need of a savior)
– It means that immersion, to gain perspective, doesn’t have to equal absorption (Jesus walked our sinful earth, yet did not sin.)
– It means that people, even the ones I disagree with, are never my enemy. (Jesus didn’t ask us to fight humanity, He asked us to fight darkness)
– It means that “sides” matter less than “direction.” (Jesus asked his disciples, and us, to follow him. As we do that, our values become more and more aligned to his will)
While I still have so much to learn, my prayer is that you would join me in being a person of “AND” in a world full of “OR.”
Follow the pattern of our Savior,