Among the noise of political campaigns and civil rights debates the last couple of years, one thing has become painfully apparent: Americans are remarkably fast at taking offense. When someone holds a viewpoint different from our own or offers an argument that counters what we believe, so often our default is to be offended.
This post is not meant to single out a specific group, person, or political party. I believe it is something we all deal with, regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum. It’s a default behavior I see play out daily among conservatives, liberals, and moderates alike.
Furthermore, it does not mean we shouldn’t fight relentlessly against injustice. We absolutely should be filled with righteous anger when our fellow human beings are discriminated against, persecuted, and left without a voice to speak for themselves. We can and we must speak up! We live in a country that protects our right to speak freely, and we must never take this gift for granted. We must cry out against injustice and do everything in our power to protect the sanctity of one another’s lives. So please do not use this post to justify sitting idle on the sidelines while crimes against humanity unfold around you.
The purpose of this post is simply to encourage us all—regardless of which side we find ourselves on—to humbly treat those we view as “the other side” with respect, love, and dignity.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
Have you ever unfriended or unfollowed someone on social media because their viewpoints did not align with your own? If not, have you had it happen to you or witnessed it among your friends?
Have you ever told someone or been told, “I am not going to talk about this with you because we disagree”?
When someone presents a counter-argument to your viewpoint, do you fully listen and thoughtfully consider their position? Or are you too busy formulating your rebuttal?
Do you only read news sources that support your opinion? Or do you take the time to look at multiple reputable sources to make sure you are receiving all the facts even if they aren’t always what you want to hear?
Do you only surround yourself with likeminded people who share your same perspectives of the world? Or do you fill your life with people from all backgrounds and genuinely try to understand what drives their beliefs?
When someone holds beliefs that differ from your own, are you quick to judge their heart and assume the worst about them? Or do you value their dignity and try to understand what lead them to their beliefs? Do you take it personally if they don’t agree with you? Or do you respect their autonomy and right to think for themselves?
Do you treat agreeing with someone as a prerequisite to being able to love them well and maintain a respectful relationship with them?
Ultimately, do you choose to love the person over being offended by their position?
A Higher Calling for the Church
Perhaps it is socially acceptable in certain groups to hurl insults at the other side, to refuse to listen to those who oppose you (even if they are speaking truth), to shut down a person’s right to speak simply because they don’t agree with you, and to be so easily offended by anything spoken from the other side that you fail to see your own imperfections.
But Church, we must be better than this!
When we choose to grant a listening ear only to people with whom we agree, we isolate ourselves and demean entire groups of people. In doing so, we run the risk of falling prey to misinformation, propaganda, and the “them” vs. “us” mentality. We stop seeing people as human beings and instead simply see them as “the other side.” We place people into categories and pass sweeping judgments fueled by stereotypes and overgeneralizations. We give pride a stronghold in our lives and turn others away, losing credibility as loving followers of Christ who value the well-being of others before our own.
Did Jesus yell slanderous words at people who opposed him? Did he refuse to let them speak? Did he look down at them for being different than him? Never.
We serve a God who chose to come in the lowliest form and share meals with the very people society rejected. Rather than being offended by their lives, he chose to love people as they were—broken, imperfect and in need of the Father’s unconditional love. Rather than acting as though he had been slighted and spitting back in the faces of those who mocked him, Jesus chose to die in their place.
Church, we are called to show the same unconditional love and humility to those around us.Choosing to be constantly offended and turning people away who think differently ultimately hinders our ability to love them well.
Instead of being offended, what if we choose to lay down our pride and respectfully hear the other person out? Not to form a better argument against them, but to demonstrate we genuinely care about their humanity and what they need to say.
What if we remember that every person’s life story is unique and we all have different experiences that have lead us to the system of beliefs we hold today?
What if instead of being offended, we choose to sit down with one another over a meal and get to know the actual person behind the opposing protest sign?
What if we acknowledge that we are imperfect people and, despite our best attempts, we are not always right?
What if we humbly admit that someone else might have considered something we have failed to see?
What if we take ourselves off our self-designed pedestals (on which we never belonged in the first place), and critically examine our own role in the problem at hand?
Perhaps I’m naïve, but I truly believe assuming this posture allows all sides of an argument to gain a more well-rounded understanding of the issue, while also creating the possibility for a unified solution. I know this is not always the case and there are many times in which people will never agree. But at the end of the day, even if we never find common ground, at least we can say we have loved one another well.
Church, America is watching. The world is watching. If ever there was a need for people to be loved well, this is the time. If ever there was a need for people to see the Church lay down their pride, set their differences aside, and love one another like Jesus, this is the time. If ever there was a need for the Gospel to break down walls and build bridges, this is the time!
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Kimberly Carroll is a military spouse, mother of two, and graduate of UNC Chapel Hill. She has a heart for the weary and broken-hearted, holds tightly to her eternal hope in Christ, and wants nothing more than for her life to be an outpouring of God's never-ending love to those around her. On her blog, Kimberly discusses mental illness, grief and the importance of never giving up. Follow her blog at https://kims88.