Today I Saw God
Here we are, America. It's been less than one month since we got a new president. For many, Facebook has become a place we visit with fear of what our friends and family might say about their approval or disapproval of President Trump's first few weeks in office. But the truth is, it's time to take a deep breath. It's time to remember that the same people you are avoiding today are the same people you were having barbecues with this past summer, making friendly small talk with at back to school night or inviting over for dinner just weeks ago.
Over the past three election cycles I have turned one of the three FM radio station sets in my car into "news central." I rotate between NPR, WTOP, WMAL, WHUR and 99.1 Bloomberg to try and hear the actual facts that lie buried in each station's spin on a story. It is a fascinating learning experience, and I encourage you to try it some time. What I've discovered is that very few facts are reported on a regular basis. Instead, reporters and radio hosts share their emphatic perspectives on a single action without providing any real insight into why those on each side of an issue are so irrationally upset. Even a show's callers support the craze of that view, with very few exceptions where the host welcomes callers with other opinions.
I have close friends on both sides of many of today's issues. Friends have said things to me that still sting at my very core months later, and friends continue to surprise me by spreading venom against one view or the other. It all leaves me feeling a bit hopeless really, because I believe that most of us actually share many of the same core views about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that most of us love our country and want to see it continue to thrive and unite. But we have somehow become accustomed to taking sides instead of choosing to have discussions to seek greater understanding. So I've realized that I have some forgiveness to do. I need to forgive those that have said things that hurt me because of perceived differences in our belief systems. And I need to ask for forgiveness to anyone that I may have offended.
When I feel hopeless, I seek wisdom in scripture. In Luke 17:1,Jesus said to his disciples:"Things that cause people to stumbleare bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come." And later, in verse three he says, "So watch yourselves." That phrase, "so watch yourselves," really caught me off guard. It doesn't exactly sound like a phrase you might hear 2,000 years ago. It sounds like something you might have heard your mom say when you were a teenager. But like a caring parent, Jesus tells us not to push our own earthly desires so hard onto others that it causes them to stumble. I think the stumbling that we are to watch for refers to something that makes one waver from God's desires for our lives. The problem here, of course, is that not everyone knows what God desires of us. But during these times of quick emotional reactions, in person, on email and in Facebook, the advice is clear and simple: "So watch yourselves."
My favorite chapter in the Bible is Psalm 51, and in verse 10, it says, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." So join me in trying to avoid causing anyone to stumble, in watching ourselves and in cleansing our hearts in humility and forgiveness. By doing so, we can all turn back to our God as our Lord and Savior and not the latest protests or administration.
Unless you've been living under a rock or in the branches of a tree, you've probably noticed that our country is in the process of trying to elect our next president. On TV, in magazines and at the water cooler at work you can hear discussions about both the Republican and Democratic candidates. You also probably have noticed a lot of disagreements, anger and even signs of ignorance or insecurity.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu once wrote, "We are not expected at all times to be unanimous or to have a consensus on every conceivable subject. What is needed is to respect one another's points of view and not to impute unworthy motives to one another or to seek to impugn the integrity of the other. Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another and cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other."
One has to remember that it is not a character flaw if you don't agree with someone and it doesn't (or shouldn't) take away from your opinion of that person if you feel differently. Watching the media clips of speeches, debates and news conferences, I can't help but wonder, "If these people are behaving this way in front of millions of people, how do they behave behind closed doors?" The sniping, bad-mouthing and insult hurling is not the way God calls us to be.
While we don't ever have to agree with another person's opinion, what we must do is to respect that opinion and that person. And with that respect comes a lack of name-calling, a neutral tone of voice and the ability to listen.
As parents, have you ever gotten angry with your child only to hear, "Mom, please, just listen to me!"? We all want to be heard, but sometimes we just need to listen. And that means listening and responding respectfully. When you and your child (or spouse or friend or relative) disagree, think about how you might respond. Is it the same way you would respond to a co-worker or a stranger? Is it the same way you would respond to your boss or your pastor? Is it the same way you would respond to Jesus?
Let's agree to disagree and to "seek the greater good of the other."