We live in a divisive age and conflict is unavoidable. It’s not as simple as turning off our televisions, or avoiding social media because tempers flare at the dinner table, sides are drawn at the office coffee bar, and cherished church friends sport bumper stickers and t-shirts proclaiming they’re on “the other side.”
It’s disorienting. Disappointing. Disruptive, disturbing, and depressing on good days.
(Yes, Lori, we agree, but what do we DO? How do we respond? Where do we take our frustration, confusion, anger, and our desire to make a difference? How are we to be light when other Christians accuse us of supporting the dark and vice versa?
What about love? What about unity? When we remain silent, others accuse us of being part of the problem – of agreeing by our lack of response. When we stand up for truth, others accuse us of causing conflict and contributing to division. )
“I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (Psalm 120:7 ESV)
Yes, the struggle is real. Can I get an amen? Navigating these times isn’t easy, loved ones, but our God has not abandoned us and we aren’t the first believers to live in complicated days. His Word continues to supply ample instruction even in the days of Snapchat and Twitter.
First, the ability to withstand conflict, disagreement, and debate is a muscle that can be strengthened. Christians in other countries have been living out and speaking up for their faith in much worse situations for generations. They know, what we need to learn, that Jesus is present and active even in chaos.
Crisis is an opportunity to strengthen our faith, to rely more on our Lord, and to live more boldly what we have only talked of living in times of peace. But we must be wise for the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Wisdom comes from God, so seek Him at every opportunity. (James 1:5) No more talk of “next year” I’ll make a habit of reading my Bible, or “soon” I’ll develop a prayer life. Now, loved ones. Now is the time.
Second, we speak up when God makes it clear we should speak.
We never speak up, like trained circus seals, at the prompting (or provoking) of the media, or of those who hate Christ, or of fools who fill the air for the sake of hearing their own voices. Reread the gospels and watch Jesus interact with his detractors. He never felt compelled to play into their agendas.
They baited Him always, but He resisted the bait. He responded to questions with questions unless the one asking was truly seeking Him. We take our cues from Jesus, not from the circus monkeys that rule the air, because there is a ring-master at work, with whom we are at war.
Read the gospels, pay attention to Jesus, and learn to know His voice. These are not the days to “wing it” or let our changeable emotions wag our tongues or move fingers across keyboards.
Third, we speak truth when we know the truth. Period.
We don’t speculate on rumors or half-truths. We don’t jump at headlines or click-bait. We don’t share stories from unreliable sources, or quote statistics we haven’t confirmed. We represent Jesus and He never ran about like Chicken Little proclaiming the falling of the sky. Neither should we.
And when we speak about what we believe, we know why we believe it. Our mouths are informed by our minds which are instructed by God’s Word and inspired by hearts yielded to Christ. Until we are in this place, we refrain from speaking.
Fourth, we listen out of love and to represent a God who hears. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20 We don’t shout one another down. We don’t shut one another out.
We exhibit the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This doesn’t sound to me like people who toss out one-liners meant to stir up trouble, or who traffic in sarcasm and insults. These sound like sober-minded, brave souls willing to step into the fray with listening ears, loving hearts, calm spirits, and wise, loving words. People who use words as tools, not weapons. This is who we are, loved ones, we who walk with Christ.
Fifth, when God tells us to speak, we boldly, bravely, unapologetically represent Jesus and God’s unchangeable Word with our speech backed up by our lives. We do not hesitate, manipulate, or capitulate. By His power, we stand.
Sixth, we lead with grace. We who entered the family of God by admitting our sinful state, by acknowledging that we deserve eternal separation from God, and who confessed we cannot save ourselves, but rely on Jesus Christ for salvation, we freely extend to others the grace we freely received. Even when this grace is thrown back in our faces, trampled beneath unkind feet, or spat upon by souls given over to hate. Grace is our resistance against the cult of hate.
Seventh, we learn to love under fire. Love is our shibboleth. Love is our banner. Love is our tagline, our logo, the symbol on our shields. Love informs our perspective, our prayers, our words, our actions, and our activity on social media. We do not live informed only by talking heads on TV or bloggers online or despots who hate our Lord, or posers who appropriate our faith for political gain. We live informed by love alone, for we are our Father’s children.
We are not at the mercy of the times in which we live. We are not orphans in this world. We are children of the Almighty God who will hold us accountable for every word we speak or share – even on Facebook.
Jesus knows the way through these times. We will follow Him, and we will not fear.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) August 13, 2017