The other day, I came across something on my Facebook feed that caught my attention — it was a picture of two of my friends smiling, one holding a “Covfefe” mug and the other holding a mug that said “Liberal Tears” on it. Cute cups, you may be thinking, but so what?
These two guys have been friends since college and one of them leans to the left politically and the other to the right. They have different perspectives on some big issues, they disagree with each other passionately at times in debates, and yet, they’re still good friends. This has tragically become a rare phenomenon, yet if ever our country and society needed friendships like theirs, it’s now.
One person commented, “You both are so opposite on some things but are still such close friends and can laugh about it in pics like this. The world needs more of that.” Indeed, it does.
Unfortunately, a friendship like this stuck out to me because it’s the opposite of what we’ve become accustomed to in our increasingly polarized world of shouting, unfriending and blocking instead of bridge-building.
When I’d go to the gym, I’d always be fascinated by the news on the TVs in the treadmill room. One TV would have coverage from Fox News and the other from MSNBC. Talk about an “Interstellar” experience, seeing how the same moment or event can be interpreted and presented in such different ways. The chasms and brokenness in our society seem beyond repair. However, as Americans, and particularly for those of us who profess to be followers of Christ, I see an opportunity unlike any other in our lifetime.
On my family’s trip last summer to visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia, our guide said something that really stuck out. She ended her presentation with the reported words of Benjamin Franklin, who was asked something to the effect of, “What do we have, doctor, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin retorted, “A republic, if we can keep it.”
The guide then talked about how the stability of our democracy and of our republic is only sustained by the care and attention of each generation of citizens. As a lover of political science and social studies, I’ve never been more concerned about the survival of our system, institutions and democracy than I am now. Furthermore, as a Christian, I’ve never been more concerned about the church staying focused on its mission to share the good news of the gospel and speaking biblical truth in love to our neighbors than I am now.
As Christians, we must not give in to the moment of polarizing political ideological division, rather we must rise to the moment. We cannot effectively love our neighbor if we view our neighbor as our enemy. We cannot win souls to Jesus if we are more focused on winning elections or on demonizing those whose views and lifestyles are contrary to what we believe.
To be sure, we should be passionate about issues we care about, be engaged in the political process and speak biblical truth on even the tough matters we are confronted with in our culture. But we would do well to remember the story of Jonah, the biblical prophet who was called by God to warn of impending judgment on Nineveh. Jonah refused because he hated his audience to such a degree; he didn’t want to see them receive mercy. God is looking for us to be prophets in this hour, not political partisans.
Actor Matthew McConaughey recently made headlines with his plea for gun reforms in the wake of the Uvalde tragedy a few weeks ago. While we all have different opinions on the issue of gun reform, McConaughey’s approach was almost refreshing. In a follow-up interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, in talking about how to come together, McConaughey started with talking about what we have in common. Noting that he and Baier are both fathers, he would begin with that common ground of what it’s like to be a parent and go from there.
As Christians, we believe that we are all human beings created in the image of God, that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that we all need a savior, Jesus Christ. Let us not forget those key commonalities and endeavor to build bridges to those with whom we disagree and share and shine the light and love of Jesus. Let us seize the moment of our time by following the biblical advice to “not be quarrelsome but be kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
If we can love our neighbor as ourselves, practice respectful dialogue and agree to disagree, remember that we are fellow Americans and human beings, and as Christians, remember we are fellow sinners in need of a savior, maybe our republic can survive and the credibility of the Christian church and its mission can as well.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the union, when again touched, as surely, they will be, by the better angels of our nature." - President Abraham Lincoln
Stephen Mitchell is the senior pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Maryland. He also is the host of a regular podcast, “Real Christian Talk with Pastor Steve,” available on all podcast platforms.
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