This weekend on twitter in a conversation with someone I didn’t know, I made a statement that was pretty ignorant, lazy and simply untrue on my part. To the person I was talking to’s credit they continued to engage with me and we had an open and respectful dialogue about the Asher’s case which was at the forefront of religious news in Northern Ireland last week.
(You can check out my take on it here)
But when they made it clear that what I had written was untrue, I apologized.
And I’m going to be honest, it felt amazing to say sorry. It got me wondering though why so many of us have a difficult time apologizing to each other. And when I say ‘us’, I mean Christians. Specifically online.
When much of Christianity today especially online, centers around debates on theological positions about things that really don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things, it’s not much of a surprise that we can’t bring ourselves to say sorry.
Christians online, perhaps more than most groups of people love to be right. Our identities are so cemented in what we believe that when someone comes along with an opinion that differs from our own, instead of engaging with them respectfully and listening, our posture is one of defensiveness.
Our chests get tight, our heart rates increase and we attack our families (because that is what we are) in ways that will make our next family reunion slightly awkward.
But there has to be a better way.
I’m not saying we always have to agree. How boring would that be? But the way we engage has to be so open that we all feel free and safe to know we won’t get lambasted for our opinions.
It’s actually surprising how little Jesus is mentioned when online discussions involving Christians are concerned. The next time that friend that loves causing debate for the sake of controversy on Facebook starts a post, have a quick search for Jesus. He’ll probably be hiding somewhere embarrassed.
Nevertheless, I think in our approach to how we engage with people that disagree with us, Jesus is our best bet to look to for guidance.
What we often forget is that when Jesus did debate it was with the religious folk who were more concerned with power and maintaining the status quo than love. When it came to the people who the religious leaders said were dirty, wrong, worthless and sinners; people like the poor, the sexually immoral, the homeless and the people from other faiths entirely, He entertained them, He sat with them, He listened to and He cared for them.
Jesus did not call us to be right, but even if we are, our highest calling is always love. (Tweet This)
If He had wanted us to take correct theological positions He wouldn’t have had his best friends be a bunch of people from different belief systems, often doubtful, always confused, screw ups. He wouldn’t have spent so much time railing against the religious leaders of his day. He wouldn’t have spoken using stories that made very little sense a lot of the time. He wouldn’t have talked most highly about the people that everyone else had written off as being essentially wrong by religious standards of the day.
Even, on the evening of his arrest, when he was about to face the biggest injustice anyone has ever faced and had more of a right to stick up for being correct about something than anyone since; He healed one of his captors after they were wounded by Peter.
But…when someone disagrees with our view on homosexuality, or predestination, or money, or church, or swearing, or the use of violence, we quickly reach for our swords. To make matters worse, most of the time, it isn’t even our enemies (who we are called to love relentlessly anyway, sorry) we are attacking, but our family.
It’s almost as if Jesus first reaction to someone who was actually wrong to attack Him was to heal them. To borrow a turn of phrase from Jesus Himself, how much more then should we love those who just think differently than us and not feel the need to defend ourselves?
Do we believe that it’s up to us to save Christianity, or do we believe that it’s already been accomplished 2000 years ago?
Something to ponder.
Then, next time we decide to knock down and attack someone because we feel our belief system is being threatened it might be worth asking, was it ever that strong to be begin with?
And if that makes you uncomfortable well,