In the wake of the election, how are your friendships faring?
If you’re anything like the people I’ve spoken to in the last week, your answer is, “Not very well.”
My Facebook friends, in particular, are struggling with bruised feelings over offensive jabs made online between people of opposing parties. Two women are not sure they will continue their relationship after the wounds caused by their heated wall-to-wall debates. Another of my friends wrote a long apology on her wall, admitting she had become so wrapped up in promoting her politics that she felt she had been unkind and impatient with those who disagreed with her.
The election draws out what is normally hidden behind propriety and good manners. It is as though, as long as we are arguing about politics, ugliness and below-the-belt hits are expected … and therefore excusable.
There’s a truck that drives around our town that is plastered with graffiti admonishing passersby to “Fear,” “Love Jesus,” “Obey,” and “Repent now!” along with a smattering of Scripture references.
We laugh at the ludicrousness of such an approach to reaching the lost, but there we go, driving around “Repent now!” trucks of our own, cruising around town (and Facebook) honking our horns to draw attention to our message and wonder why, for all our efforts, all we really succeed at is driving people away.
The cry to repent, when divorced from genuine love for a person, is nothing more than pharisaical finger-pointing couched as “concern.” If it accomplishes anything, it is only to further embed the opposing party in their beliefs. What part of us being condescending jerks that ridicule anyone we disagree with would make anyone want to be like us, much less move into our camp?
What changes people’s hearts are not protracted debates, “helpful” suggestions for books to read or blogs to check out (so that our opponent can become “enlightened” like we are, supposedly), heated arguments on Facebook, or pick-up trucks covered with spray-painted cries for repentance.
What changes hearts is love. Hearts are melted when we humbly admit we don’t have all the answers. When we value our friendships enough to respectfully give each other the freedom to disagree. When we trust that God will work in every person’s (including our own) life in His timing and in His way and give our fellow stragglers grace in the meantime.
It doesn’t matter how “right,” how smart, how well-informed, how articulate, how researched, how historically accurate, or how zealous we are. Without love, we are clanging gongs and sounding cymbals. And just as effective.