[A gift I received from an 8-year-old, my highlight from this difficult week]
I just read the following in a post I wrote from what feels like twenty years ago, but was actually August 27, 2018, shortly after we’d moved back from Nicaragua:
Finally, I’m scared about what’s going on in this country. Do people hate one another more than they ever have before or is it just louder? How do I respond faithfully to what I see in love, as a Jesus follower, not returning hate for hate, but with courage and boldness and grace? I’m seeking community because I know I can’t do this on my own.
I have only a few things to say today and I’ll keep them brief.
First, if you claim to follow Jesus and you have abandoned love, you have also turned away from Jesus. Jesus still loves you, but you’re not walking in the way he leads. Fear-mongering is not love. Repeating falsehoods and lies is not love. Demonizing the opposition is not love. These are all means that those who seek power and control have adopted throughout history; they have appeared in the church all too often. But they are not Jesus’ way.
Second, I would ask you to pray. Not “Lord of Hosts, smite my enemy!” prayers, but “God, heal us. Open my eyes. Show me how I can help.” I still believe that God is bigger than what divides us. Do you?
Third, both sides aren’t right, or equally valid in their positions. The election wasn’t stolen; we, the United States, held an election and legally elected a new President. You might hate that. But it wasn’t stolen or fraudulent or rigged. Those attempting to prove fraud lost sixty-two out of sixty-three court cases. They have no substantive evidence. Many claimed to have “evidence” but, when required to speak under oath, with legal consequences if they lied, they did not, in fact, have evidence. Instead, they keep making false claims to sow doubt about the election, but not claims they can prove in a court of law. Republican-appointed judges, including some recently appointmented by this administration and including the Supreme Court, presided over many of these cases. It wasn’t a massive, nation-wide conspiracy. “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” That’s from a JOINT STATEMENT FROM ELECTIONS INFRASTRUCTURE GOVERNMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL & THE ELECTION INFRASTRUCTURE SECTOR COORDINATING EXECUTIVE COMMITTEES.* I know many hate this and can disbelieve all of this. But that’s conspiracy theory.
Finally, whichever side of point three you fall, it has never been more important that we seek to love one another. I have no magic plan for bringing instant peace, but I have these suggestions:
Make your real relationships with real people in your life more important than your social media interactions with them. That may mean unfollowing, unfriending, or even blocking certain people–I mean real friends whom you value and hope to keep as friends. As another wise friend pointed out, our friendships may recover if we stop injuring each other.
Stop raising your voice to people with whom you disagree. I don’t mean stop speaking the truth or stop standing up for the persecuted and oppressed. There is an argument for arguing. I mean, stop seeking out people with whom you can argue. If you catch yourself “accidentally” falling into an argument (we all know how to rationalize), take a breath and walk away. Say what you need to say to keep your integrity and leave it there. I’ve read all of Jesus’ words and I promise you he never commands us to get the last word. If you’re that angry or frustrated, jump back to step two. Pray for them. It will do more, for both of you.
This is such a crucial time for community. We need mutual support and encouragement and a safe place to scream in frustration. If we are to be peacemakers–Lord, hear our prayer–we need one another’s strength and hope to pool together. We also need people of the truth who will keep calling us back to the light when all we can see is darkness. If you find yourself surrounded by people who reinforce hatred and fear instead of love and hope, I urge you to get out. Talk to me. I know some people…
I don’t know how we reconcile from here. I really don’t. I’ve started four different posts and am still trying to wrap my head around it. I’m not hopeless, but I am stymied. Yes, we offer grace, but reconciliation requires truth and reaching a common understanding. I’m going to write more in this coming week on our many challenges to reconciliation.
All I know for sure is that this will be a long journey…and God is faithful.
*Could that sound any more like a government statement?