It’s a long one, Y’all. You might want to grab another cup before we begin …
When I first started posting my writing on FB in the early fall of 2019 in response to the gun violence that has become way too common in our culture, my intent was to help us all grow more compassionate and to see each other more clearly as beloved children of God. As my topics have broadened and I’ve discovered that what I’m doing is working at separating social ideologies from theology, my intent is still compassion because the better we see the world as Jesus sees it the more compassionate we become.
Part of our compassion journey with Jesus is learning that our words have the power to either build up or degrade other people. How we speak of others and how we choose to label others reveals how we see them with our heart. Jesus tells us that even if we think of harming another we have already caused harm. Our words matter and we must use them carefully and with compassion.
My heart is hurting and I just really need to say this out loud: my belief that every single human being deserves to be treated with dignity, you know, basic things like hungry people need food and everyone needs a safe place to sleep and equal access to competent medical care, does not mean that I bear the labels of liberal, or progressive, or democrat, or socialist, or communist. It means I want to do the things Jesus teaches us to do about loving our neighbor. It means I’m doing my best with God’s help to follow Jesus.
Even before I understood I was on this journey of teasing out societal ideologies from theology, I stopped identifying with any political party in this country (please do not read that as I do not vote. I do and I take it very seriously). When we choose to follow Jesus, we cannot set aside bits and pieces (or the very main thing) of what he teaches so that we can claim allegiance to a particular group of people.
I think a part of the issue is that we’ve decided that everything in life is us-against-them, a fight-to-the-death competition in which we can leave no one else standing; the only way to be successful is to annihilate everyone else. We’ve decided that polarization is normal and that there can only be two, diametrically opposed sides to any issue. We must be ‘this’ or ‘that.’ There is no both/and. And we miss out on so much of who we are when we live in the ‘us versus them’ attitude.
I recently saw a meme that illustrates well how this simplistic way of thinking has permeated our culture and shapes our thinking. It said “kids need germs and dirt and not masks and sanitizer.” In the either/or mentality, when we choose to label masks and disease prevention as a politicized evil because some political leader told us they are bad, we have no choice but to elevate the very things that masks and sanitizers protect us from. Do our kids need measles germs or flu germs or chickenpox germs or even cold germs? Do we say our children need fun not bike helmets, or freedom to move about not car seats? Our children need to develop their immune systems AND proper hygiene and vaccines are critical in the process. It isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. This simplistic, either/or way of thinking and living leaves no room for complex thought and reasoning. This kind of thinking leaves no room for others. It leaves no room for compassion or grace. It leaves no room for relationship development and growth. Life is so much more than either/or. Life as God intends us to live it is a complex, intricate, multi-faceted mixture of all of us, journeying together as beloved children of God.
It may sound contradictory to talk about living in the both/and as a faithful follower of The One who says “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” but we must also remember that Jesus scolded the disciples for trying to stop others from doing good just because they weren’t members of their little group. Jesus scolded the religious leaders of his day for twisting the rules to be about exclusion rather than inclusion. He fed crowds of thousands on the Jewish side of the lake AND the gentile side of the lake. He washed all the disciples’ feet, including Judas. Jesus didn’t force or coerce or bully anyone but laid out the truth of Whose and who we are created to be as an open invitation to everyone and lets us choose because that’s how love behaves.
We are all God’s beloved children. We are all invited to gather around God’s table. We are all walking this beautiful, mixed up, complex, amazing journey of life together with the relationship status of “it’s complicated.”
Would you join me for an extra cup of coffee this morning? I’d love to hear your thoughts and discover something about you.