Recently, there has been much buzz over the President’s State of the Union Address as well as the associated protestations of his detractors. Opinions abound. Numerous comments, in both professional and personal media, sadly reinforce already well-established biases. Often, today’s commentators abandon critical reasoning, and instead, resort to spinning every societal happening into confirmation bias.
Linguistic yoga has reached a new level as polarized pundits witness the same event and then mutilate the facts in such a way as to advance their own pre-determined agendas. These pontificators of cultural righteousness see nothing wrong with their side and everything wrong with the other.
This way of looking at things brings immediate division. It sets up a good/evil dichotomy with each side subjectively choosing “good” for themselves. There is little room for learning from one another when everyone is pigeonholed into the most extreme positions of their constituency. Dialog is further impeded because those on the “good” side seldom judge themselves with the same measuring stick.
For example, Christians on the left of the political spectrum often accuse those on the right, of not caring about Donald Trump’s frequent ad-hominin attacks on his political opponents, and his past moral indiscretions. They argue that anyone who supports him must therefore be “Okay” with those less-than-Christian qualities.
Christians on the right often accuse those on the left, of not caring about traditional marriage or abortion because they often support candidates who advance positions that run counter to orthodox Christian doctrine.
Most Christians I know, on both sides of the political aisle, desire God’s will. Many on the right cringe when the President parades his character flaws. Many on the left are concerned about marriage issues and the sanctity of life. Often, Christians prioritize the checklist differently.
Life is not simple. A good friend of mine – we will call Jacob – told me a great story about an encounter he had in his workplace. One of his colleagues–we will call Bob – believed people are all good or all evil. When asked if he truly believed this, Bob dug in saying yes. Jacob asked, “How does your son feel about that?” Bob inquired, “What do you mean?” Jacob responded, “I’m sure your son isn’t perfect, I know I’m not.” Grudgingly Bob replied, “But, I love my son.” Exactly!
God calls His people to persuade and speak truth, “IN LOVE” (Eph. 4:15) The Apostle Paul went further when he wrote,
“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2-3)
For those of us who seek to be like Jesus, there is no room for compromise. We are citizens of another Kingdom and are subject to the rule of King Jesus. His rule says: “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)
There is a good reason the Bible tells us to “Work at living in peace.” It is DIFFICULT. It requires us to listen lovingly to the concerns of our brothers and sisters in Christ BEFORE we demand they listen to our opinion. As Steven Covey wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
The poisonous combination of our carnal nature, and the modern culture of disrespect, wage war against our spirit. The Apostle Paul discussed this war in Romans 7. He said that the good he wanted to do he didn’t do, and the evil he didn’t want to do he did. He expressed his frustration over this war and asked who would save him. In Romans 8 he answered the question. JESUS saved him! He will save us too if we accept Him. For those who receive Him, Christ has provided us the grace and empowerment to overcome the struggle of the flesh and to live godly lives according to His righteousness which lives within us.
So, we have no excuse for waging rhetorical war the way the world does. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. (Eph. 6:12) Our fight is not with our neighbors. (Luke 10:35-37) Our fight is against the enemy of man–Satan! When we engage the culture according to our flesh, we become part of the problem instead of the solution. When we advance the cause of Christ, using the ways of Christ, we are fulfilling the command of Jesus to win the lost. (1 Cor. 9:19-23, Mark 16:15, Prov. 11:30, Acts 1:8, et al.) Only then can His “will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Only then can we live at peace in a world at war.