How do you set up your process of taking in information? Do you learn about current events from more than one source? Do you block someone the minute they post something that you disagree with? Do you read books or listen to podcasts with more than one worldview? Do you eat dinner with people that don’t go to your church, to any church at all, who have no interest in God?
The world we live in is so consumed with being right. Having the last word. And excluding anyone on the other side of their argument.
But, let me ask you this. Have you ever tried to love someone when you are completely annoyed with them? Have you ever tried to love someone on the other side of the political line than you and not known where to draw the line?
We can’t love people well if we spend more time judging them than praying for them. Do you see yourself winning a friend over to Christ for posting a meme that makes fun of them or been endlessly sarcastic? Do you see yourself enveloping them in a time of grief when all you’ve done is insisted on your own way? If we spend more time gossiping about them than encouraging them, who wins? Our pride. And bitterness takes root.
We are looking for reasons to keep our knuckles clutched in fear, in anger, in confusion. We ought to live wisely and discern the events around us. We should most definitely know the fools around us and keep our distance. At the exact same time, we are called to be known by our love. What do we do with this tension?
Can we all just admit that this is extremely difficult? And we are all trying to figure this out?
I believe it starts with knowing the difference between discernment and judgment. They are basically siblings, they are so much alike. But if we spend our days only wanting our own truth exclaimed instead of the Kingdom of God first, it’s like that we will waste our lives judging others.
In the family of God, there will be many differences. Don’t be mistaken. But there are meant to be no divisions.
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. — 1 Corinthians 1:10
Isn’t that crazy to think about? In the world we live in where someone is considered our friend if they have the same preferences and vote for the same candidates? The Greek word for agree in this passage (hina pantes legete) means “to say the same thing”. The word for united (katertismenoi) means to “be made perfect or be perfectly joined together”. The word for judgment (gnome) means “judgment, purpose or will”. This means that we can be on mission with our brother and as long as we say the same thing – our understanding of the gospel is rooted in Scripture – and our purpose – furthering Christ’s kingdom – remains the same, we continue to walk together. Conflict is a way to sanctify us to be more like Christ. Our differences and the way we work through them are meant to actually help us be “made perfect”! But divisions, matters that are clearly stated against in Scripture, show us the people that we do not have the same mind with – therefore we don’t have the same purpose in life.
Within the Christian context, discernment is defined in this way: “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding.”
This means that we can look at our neighbor, see the error in their ways, and have nothing to do with their folly. We can learn from other’s mistakes and choose a better path. We can see their sin in separation from their personhood. We aren’t there for vengeance, because we know it is God’s alone. We are there for the sharing of words and opinions, not to make sure ours is the last. We can thank God that He has opened our eyes to truth, ask for humility, and continue to stand up for His justice and righteousness. We can love that person, respect them, and still know that His ways are higher than all of our views through faded glass.
If you want help in knowing further what this looks like, dive deep into the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Over and over we see how Jesus was outraged to the point of saying “oh you of little faith!” and proceeded to point out the error of many people’s ways. We also see him let a woman of less than moral reputation sit as his feet in worship with only gracious words. What we learn from His example is that there is not a formula for how to always interact with those that believe different than us. But there is always one goal: to honor God’s name. Throughout the Scriptures, Jesus always stood up for His Father’s name being misrepresented. He was quiet when people spoke out against Him, but He always spoke up when someone slashed the name of God. We should do the same. And when the Pharisees expected Him to make a scene, He often chose a softer response of accepting their repentance and extending grace. We should do the same.
God has pursued our hearts in a thousand unique ways, so we shouldn’t be surprised when there aren’t always one answer to how to handle this tension. But a few things are clear in the life of Jesus: He didn’t have anything to do with immorality. And He regularly ate with sinners. There is one way that we as Christians can accomplish this same goal, however imperfectly: we have to be walking with the Spirit every single day. He will guide us in whether we need to make a bold statement, a quiet embrace, or something in between. The cross will continue to be offensive to those who have blinded eyes, but we must press on for the ones who are hungering for the Good News. We will offend others and we have to be okay with that. We will love people that are hard to embrace with any sort of kindness and we have to rejoice in His grace that allows us to do so. He knows our capabilities and other’s needs perfectly. We must trust Him to lead us and obey Him when He does.
God, teach us the difference between discernment and judgment. Help us to stand firm in Your values and walk in Your Spirit. Tell us what to do – may we be quiet enough to listen. Cleanse our hearts of bitterness and our tongues of starting wildfires we cannot tame without Your help. Give us the strength to stand firm in our convictions and give us the humility to apologize when we’re wrong. Keep us from becoming hardened by the world. Keep us soft yet strong, bold and kind. Would Your love be so mightily manifested in us that it ripples out to those around us, leading to the holy shift in us all.