October 5, 2017 – John Stonestreet
Living As Christians In A Deeply Divided Time
For many Americans, the most crucial factor in their Thanksgiving plans is who they’ll have to talk to across the table. More on being Christian in a divided nation…
In the wake of last year’s election, many Americans decided to spend Thanksgiving with friends instead of family. This year, I suspect it will be even worse. After all, once Uncle Bill starts talking about President Trump, or Aunt Sally weighs in on transgenders in the military, or Cousin Phil announces why a Christian baker should or shouldn’t decorate a cake for a gay wedding . . . well, who knows what might happen.
I’m not that old, but I can’t remember a time when our country, our communities, and even our families have been so ideologically divided. Not only do we disagree but we tend to see others not only as wrong, but as our enemies. On news outlets, college campuses—certainly on Twitter—civility is out the window.
It’s one thing to say “I disagree with you.” It’s another thing to say “I can’t even share a meal or stand the sight of you.”
But it’s exactly here that Christians have something unique to offer.
In my travels around the country, I see more and more that people—especially Christians—feel they have only one of two choices: to avoid important topics altogether, or to err on the side of not offending by compromising or burying the truth.
But that’s a false choice. The stakes of our cultural debates right now are too high. Too many today, including within the Church, seem to believe that truth and love are somehow incompatible: that if we speak the truth, we’re somehow being unloving.
But truth and love are not mutually exclusive concepts. Why? Because both are fully embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6). And, He is love incarnate (1 Jn 4:8).
Christians must ground our arguments, in both substance and in style, on the firm foundation of Scriptural truth.
First, Scripture is clear that each and every human being is made in the image of God and therefore has eternal dignity and value. As C. S. Lewis put it in “The Weight of Glory,” “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal . . .” And of course, we must treat every person with that kind of respect.
Second, we know that God’s established laws include the moral law as well. Though our capacity to fully comprehend and live out what is true and good is bent by the fall, what is true and good remains. As Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a recent issue of First Things, “Truth exists, whether we like it or not. We don’t create truth; we find it, and we have no power to change it to our tastes. The truth may not make us comfortable, but it does make us free.”
Exactly. And that is what we want for every human being—to be free to become all that God created them to be. This is what should motivate us in our interactions with everyone—even those who will hate what we stand for.
This doesn’t mean our approach will always “work” in the sense of avoiding conflict or convincing those who see us as their enemies. But it’s the right thing to do. And so we must engage this moment with courage and conviction.