It’s getting harder to be nice anymore.
I have friends on all sides of virtually every political, theological and philosophical issue. People with whom I have significant disagreements on some subjects, yet find common ground on others.
But it’s becoming difficult to do that and stay sane.
Whenever there’s a controversial issue in the news, my Facebook page and Twitter feed look schizophrenic. People on each side of the issue start vilifying those on the other side. And, because of my relationships with them, they sit right next to each other on my screen.
A Dangerous Polarization
In recent years there’s been a serious uptick of people being demonized by members of their own tribe, not because they’ve changed their views on something, but merely because they’ve expressed an agreement with someone who’s usually on the other side of an issue.
Instantly, they’re branded as phonies, hypocrites or worse. They’re accused of having “shown their true colors” and “colluding with the enemy” when all that can be proven is that they were kind or thankful to someone for something they both agree on.
This polarization is sad and dangerous.
Common Ground Creates Influence
When we alienate people from our lives simply because their beliefs and behaviors don’t completely overlap with ours, we make our worlds and our influence very small.
How can we effect change if we can’t find common ground with people who see things differently on some subjects?
Instead, demonization seems all the rage (pun intended).
Not only do we not associate with people who vary from our political or theological framework, we vilify anyone within our own tribe who dares to reach across the aisle and work with, befriend or even say something kind about “the others”.
Guilt By Involuntary Association
In recent months, I’ve seen good people ripped to shreds on social media, their names and reputations dragged through the mud for daring to act agreeably to those with whom they disagreed.
And now it’s getting worse than that. I’ve seen well-known and well-respected Christian leaders pilloried, not because they reached out to someone who believes differently than them, but because someone from the other side of an issue agreed with them.
It’s becoming a thought-crime, not just to like, retweet or follow someone outside your tribe, but for having been liked, retweeted or followed by them.
It’s no longer guilt by association, it’s guilt by involuntary association!
Jesus associated with the “wrong” people all the time.
He was criticized for being in far-too-close association with those who were sexually immoral, theologically incorrect and behaviorally deficient.
Even his own disciples showed themselves to be doubters, thieves, hypocrites, faithless, power-hungry, deserters, legalists and traitors. And we know this based on the books that were written by them and their friends. Imagine what their enemies would have written!
Yet these were the people who turned the world upside down for Jesus.
The Power Of Kindness
There’s something wonderfully powerful about friendship and kindness. Even (especially) with people who have very different views than we do.
I have yet to see hearts and minds changed by ratcheting up the anger. But I’ve seen hearts softened, minds changed and lives blessed by truth lived and spoken in kindness, friendship and love.
However much we have in common, we’ll never agree on everything. But I won’t let the angry echo chamber tell me who my friends are.
The more we disagree, the more I’ll try to love you. And I’ll always support those who try to do the same.
Because winning the person is always better than winning an argument.
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