Today’s words can come across as disheartening, but I am not disheartened. I am writing from the incredible hope inside me and my daily prayer that believers would come together in love because of the saving grace found in Jesus Christ and shine the light of hope bright to a crumbling world. I can be unafraid in this broken world and I can make a difference when I love others with the love of Jesus, filled with hope, perseverance and joy in all circumstances.
It is no surprise that we are a nation divided. It can be argued that we have never been this divided. Many things have contributed to this recent division, the news and social media being two reoccurring offenders. The news draws lines between people and demonizes one side or another depending on what you watch or read. The problem is that as it turns out the demons we are told about in the news are actually our friends, family, and neighbors. Whereas many in the pre-social media generation were able to go about daily life encountering a diverse group of people each day without feeling the need to disconnect from any of them, many are now inclined to cut ties with those who have opposing beliefs or a point of view that makes them uncomfortable. According to Pew Research, “Nearly one-third of social media users (31%) say they have changed their settings in order to see fewer posts from someone in their feed because of something related to politics, while 27% have blocked or unfriended someone for that reason.” To be honest, I have unfollowed a few people. I don’t unfriend because I’m from Minnesota and thats a little harsh– but the truth is that many are drawing their own lines, many times based on fear, and only allowing like minded and safe people in to their circles. We draw our lines based on race, religion, politics, age, and sex. We literally can no longer stand to view in our newsfeed classmates, coworkers, and friends who think differently than us because it offends us. All in the name of equality. But the irony is when you decide someone is unworthy of your relationship, when you unfriend them on social media or worse cut them off in real life, you are not somehow more accepting than them. You are not showing tough love, standing up for the ostracized, acting as a beacon of hope. If you cannot handle when someone has another opinion, belief, culture, lifestyle, or what have you it is because you are not willing to show love to your neighbor, even if they are your “enemy”. You are acting just like the single minded, bigoted, and intolerant that you have come to believe only exist on the other side of the political spectrum. You are unwilling to see past your own nose into a world that is beautifully combined with all sorts of people, strengths, and ideas. This is a matter of you learning to love your neighbor, no matter who they are.
Now, there is evil in the world. Racism is evil and people should stand against it. I am not saying that you should stay quiet in the face of injustice. My pastor, my Christian radio station, my family and my friends all peacefully and lovingly spoke against the recent hate in Charleston. But I know that because of my political views and my faith some people will judge me unworthy of having a voice. They will discriminate against me and some may choose to not be my friend. There is nothing I can do about what another person chooses to do. But the change can start with me. I can stand against discrimination by loving my neighbor no matter who they are and by refusing to partake in discussions that bring others down instead of building them up. The world needs hope more than ever. But it isn’t hope when we condemn, it isn’t hope when we partake in the hate, it isn’t hope when we act just like the world when the whole point is for us to stand out. Hope is when we live joyfully despite the circumstances, when we show love to the unlovable, and when we come together as a church, despite our differences, to give praise to Jesus and spread His light to a broken, hurting world.