I read yet another Facebook post with an alarming headline and asked, “Could it really true?” With some research I found that that the post, like so many these days, (from all parts of the political spectrum) chose to ignore the whole story and the context. As a result the report was alarming but untrue, more gossip than news, looking for to inflame emotion more than to inform. I am refusing to play that game any longer. This has become an issue of Christian life for me. We know how damaging a person can be who likes to ‘stir the pot’ in our workplace or family, don’t we? For reasons I find incomprehensible, some seem to enjoy keeping the drama going, telling half of the story so that people are divided and confused.
It is a wrong that we need to work to make right! The book of Wisdom says this: “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3, NIV) “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.” (Proverbs 26:20-21, NLT) Jesus taught us that when we create peace, we reveal the heart of our Father. There is a promise for those who build bridges instead of throwing bombs. “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NLT)
Repeatedly the Word urges followers of Christ to be people of self-control, who are temperate, who are sober-minded. That demands much of us – taking time to think – avoiding a reaction – listening even more than we speak. Easy? Not at all, especially about those things for which our convictions go deep. America needs a lot less incendiary opinions and a lot more thoughtful people who work to create cooperation. Like it or not, public policy that works never is a complete win for every side. Our nation works best when we are moderate, when we work toward goals even as we understand that many things take time, that problems created by decades of poor choices cannot be solved with some draconian law that rips up people’s lives. In our present time with so many challenges tearing us apart, when even national leaders appear to be intent on leveraging every issue for the gain of their party, we who are in Christ have an obligation to be truth-seekers. I assure you that the truth is much more complex than most of our media reports indicate.
The same principle applies in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our churches. Are we saying things that divide, that tear people apart, or are we using word that encourage, that draw people towards goals that are bigger than their own self-interest? Do we love drama or feel the need to inflame emotions because we think it is the best way to provoke change?
Paul wrote practical words to a couple of people he loved who were tearing up a church. ” Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” (Philippians 4:2, NLT) In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he spoke to similar problem. “As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, CEV) The Corinthian church was torn apart by factions each insisting that they had found the only way. I can almost Paul weeping as he writes to them: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephasa”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
I am guilty of allowing passionate conviction to obscure my love for others. God forgive me. And, if I have let my words be harsh, I ask your forgiveness. Let us, for the sake of Christ Jesus, commit ourselves to being those who seek peace. No, we do not have to do it at the expense of the truth and there will be times when conflict is sharp, but our aim is to bring light, to reason, to continue dialogue even with those who are opposed to us.
Here is a word from the Word. May the Spirit help us to understand. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12, NIV)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faithwhere there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis of Assisi