Where do you stand?
Everywhere I look these days, I see lines drawn in the sand with mobs of people standing behind them, screaming at the people on the other side of the line. My husband calls them “the loud and vocal minority,” as the majority of people either don’t care so passionately about much of anything or disagree with the way the position is being presented, considering it “extreme”, so rather than align with “those people,” they keep their ideologies quiet, even if they would agree with more than half of said group’s stated values.
Speaking with a friend yesterday about the most recent hot button issue, I could read her anxious breath in the way she grouped her words, and see the courage rise through the fear like a beach ball pushed to the bottom of a pool and then set free, “I just want people to know where I stand, because I feel like it might help others like me.”
I started to think about “others like me,” and the sermon series my church is currently working through, highlighting our identity, separating the “faulty script” given to us by the world from who God says we are. Our pastor said that at the core of our being, who we really are is “living proof of a loving God to a watching world.” I wondered what expectations one might have of someone considered to be “living proof of a loving God,” and do I live up to those expectations? What is it really that I expect from myself and others around me, and how does that reveal what I actually believe about who they are?
As I thought about the people in my community, my expectations began to be revealed: anger, fear of being controlled, fear of being judged, and fear of the world imploding. I was surprised to see how many people I would not bat an eyelash if I had heard they had been violent or cruel, or publicly shamed their neighbor. I closed my eyes and started searching my soul for my lines in the sand, really contemplating where I stand. I saw the mobs with banners of red and blue and all kinds of hateful slogans. Away from the crowds, I saw Jesus observing and a few people standing near Him. I walked over and saw that his face was pained.
He turned to those of us standing near him, gesturing toward the crowd and said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:13-16, 21-26, 43-48)
The clamor of the crowds began to fade as I opened my eyes, still contemplating what Jesus had said. I read over his words again and again and finally concluded that yes, I have found my line in the sand.
So where do I stand?
I stand in a space where I am desperately trying to love neighbors who hate each other.
What does that look like?
Well, I firmly believe that most of us want the exact same thing: to live our lives peacefully and prosperously in connection with our communities and our difference lies in which method is best to achieve such a dream.
I believe that neither the Donkey, the Elephant, or even the Eagle have the power of the Lamb. And that any elevation of their agenda over that of the Lamb is idolatry.
I believe that there are powers and principalities worth waging war against, and that they are not made of flesh and blood, though they can take the form of ideologies expressed through flesh and blood.
No matter what lines you have stood behind before, or still stand behind, you are welcome to stand next to me. I will do my best to hear and understand where you are coming from, to not judge you, and to love you when our differences would divide us, being willing to compromise so that together, we can achieve the “good.”