Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12 ESV
Recently, I was convicted over my behavior towards someone I love. They are young and idealistic. I used to be there too. But how easy our older minds forget. I heard them speaking about social and political issues and immediately bristled at their opinions. A sense of frustration rose up, and I felt compelled to set them straight. To teach them something. How could I let these thoughts go unchallenged? But my approach was all wrong, and I stirred up more strife than love. Why? Because fear gripped my heart and tainted the words that came forth out of my mouth. (James 1:26)
Internal frustration arose in me over the lack of control I had over someone else’s thoughts and actions. Fear that the world would fall apart. (Dramatic much?) Fear that they saw the world differently than me, and we wouldn’t be able to talk freely on important issues again. I knew some of their thinking was not biblical, and I feared for their maturity. A lack of maturity that I still wrestle with at times. I am certainly thankful that I wasn’t discarded and cast aside over every immature thought I have ever had. God keeps working on me, and I need to allow Him to do the same for others.
Growth is a process. God works through process. He doesn’t immediately give us all wisdom and understanding when He gives us a new life in Him. We are constantly being transformed into the image of God. The rate and depth of transformation depends on our desire to grow and be renewed in His Word. Babes in the world and babes in the faith need a covering of love and grace ( Galatians 6:1,2). But instead of listening and laying a covering of love on their shoulders, we often heap a heavy blanket of contempt that erects strongholds, forming barriers to true, trusting relationships and conversation. Honest conversation that leads toward true unity, accountability, and spiritual growth in our lives. This is what we really need. But in my story, the conversation ended. No understanding was reached. Future opportunities to speak truth were hindered. Who wants to talk to someone who doesn’t safely hold their thoughts (a reflection of who they are) but instead tramples them with fiery words? Love, not fear leads to unity.
Please don’t misunderstand. There are times for speaking truth into conversations, when done in love, but expecting a quick heart change based on a few words is silly. It overestimates the transforming power we have and undervalues the weight of our tongues on someone’s heart. You can force people to protect their opinions and sense of value at all costs by degrading them. Growth is hindered in the process. Attacking is easier than throwing that blanket of love over their shoulders and walking with them through the process of transformation. Discipleship requires sticking around through the whole process and encouraging one another to seek truth in the midst of the wrestling and in the resting.
I am reminded of the Scripture that talks about God covering us with His wings; sheltering us from the storms swirling around us.
” How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
Aren’t you thankful that God is patient with us in our growth and gives us refuge under His wings?
How God’s way looks different than our instinct to attack.
Our society seems to be in a perpetual state of outrage. There is no shortage of people or problems to grow angry over. As individuals, we each have our own thoughts on how our anger is righteous and good. These inner righteous stirrings often lead people to seek revenge on the part of righteousness. We want to defend God and, in the process, forget that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). While there are many injustices going on in our world today that need us united to work towards solutions, the ways in which we approach these hard topics often lead toward strife and not unity. As a believer, our responses should look different than what the world offers. Yet, for many, compassion for seeing a group receive justice is overshadowed by the hate given to those who we feel aren’t as passionate as they should be or don’t speak the approved narrative. Many use the call to justice to justify a lack of grace and love for others. We act unjustly to promote justice, and we are too busy fighting to notice the irony.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” I Peter 4:8-10
In a culture that promotes tolerance in theory, we are not partiularly good at living it out in real life. Abstract concepts have a way of doing that, falling flat with little action. Because to have action, we must first have a strong conviction or belief that will sustain our cause. Our cause should be to love God and love others. In our quest to seek justice, we end up hating those that disagree with us. Some will say that calling it hate is harsh language, but where there is strife and chaos, there is a lack of love. God says that those lacking love for his fellow man lack the love of the Father.
I John 4:20-21 – “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
We are happy to love those who agree with us, but the Bible says that we are to love our enemies, those who persecute us, and those who hold different opinions on worldly issues. I have been so disheartened watching people hold such disdain for others over issues of mask wearing, social distancing, unemployment, governmental roles in business, and general politics. This is beyond stimulating, healthy debate. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where we have a pass to behave in such a way.
We live in a broken narrative. Our stories are all fragmented and missing important elements of redemption and grace. We allow our thinking to be dictated by the cultural issues of our day instead of being transformed by God’s Word.
We have good intentions. We desire to be compassionate. Jesus is compassionate. But our compassion for justice is often screamed louder than our compassion for lost souls.
The Jews wanted Jesus to fix all the problems they were facing by becoming their earthly king. When He was crucified, they thought He had failed them. But His goal was much more ‘big picture’ than that. It was eternal. It was the most compassionate way for Him to redeem us. We could have had to pay the price for our personal sins, but He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself. He gave mercy instead of justice.
As difficult as we are, God still hides us in the shadow of His wings and showers us with His steadfast love. He applies mercy where His vengeance is justified. Can we learn to move forward in small ways to cover others with this kind of love, mercy, and kindness? Here are a few ways to begin:
Listen before we speak. Ask them how they formed their opinions.(James 1:19)
Be slow to wrath. (James 1:19)
Ask questions before judging hearts from the words spoken. Is there something that is causing misunderstanding that needs to be clarified? (I Corinthians 4:5)
When we get riled up, stop to question whether the anger is directed towards the person, personal opinions, or a greater injustice. (Ephesians 4:26)
Don’t use derogatory terms to attack others. God loves every person we encounter and wants us to honor Him through honoring His creation. (Colossians 4:6)
Ask them if you could think about their words and schedule a time to have a face to face conversation after fully forming thoughts on an issue. Ask to share something from the Bible instead of your opinions. (Acts 17:11 – Search the Scriptures daily)
Love people even when you don’t like their opinions. Pray for them in areas that you know clearly violate Scripture and don’t bring honor to God. (Romans 14:1, 15:1, 15:7)
Be patient. Let God work. You can force your thoughts on someone, but they probably won’t heed it if it feels like an attack. (Ephesians 4:2)
Don’t put people in a box based on one topic of disagreement. View them with hope/right judgment without immediately thinking the worst about them. (I Timothy 6:4, John 7:51)
I am asking God to grow me in this area. I want to be a safe space for others to share their wrestling and doubts and process their thinking. In doing this, I believe their hearts and minds will be more open to the gospel seeds to be planted and lasting growth to occur. Growth that comes from being covered with a blanket of love and grace and hidden in the wings of His steadfast love. Will you join me?