It feels like people are dividing more than ever and losing the ability to talk through their differences. Have you noticed? Our world is fractured in many ways; yet, instead of talking cordially with those we disagree with, we often ignore them or seek to unfollow them like life is a social media account.
Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were created, in part, to connect people. I’m not convinced it’s working. I’m afraid these platforms have created environments where people disconnect by ignoring opposing viewpoints and dividing at every turn. For instance, if you see something you don’t like on Facebook, you can unfollow it. If somebody says something offensive on Twitter, you can block them. Opposing viewpoints and those who hold them are easily avoidable on social media, and it’s causing some real issues in day-to-day, face-to-face life.
One of the oddest developments I’ve seen in recent years is people feeling personally attacked when an opinion of theirs is challenged. What used to be a simple disagreement is now seen as an attack on a person’s identity. A sure way to be blasted with derogatory remarks is to disagree with a person on a given topic. These are strange times, indeed.
How Shall We Live?
How does one navigate the complexities of the modern age? What do we do when an opposing point of view is not encountered on a screen, but rather, face-to-face? What do we do when a coworker disagrees with us on a matter we deem important? How do we interact with an instructor who promotes an idea different from our held beliefs?
In such cases, we can’t simply unfollow people or block their ideas. The real world doesn’t grant us that option. If you interact with people at all, you’ll be confronted with something you disagree with. We must learn to work through our differences. Thankfully, the Bible provides some direction.
The Bible teaches us to be one in spirit and mind (Philippians 2:2). Unity is a big deal. It was for Jesus, as evidenced in his prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John, and it should be for us, also. Not only should we unite around Jesus, we should be imitators of him. He perfectly modeled humility, love, and grace. If we are his disciples, we must do the things he did.
Though the world is divided, Christians are called to interact with it in a different way. Instead of avoiding difficult people, we should pursue them with love. Instead of sneering our noses, who should offer a smile. Instead of holding grudges, we should grant forgiveness.
Love is all about laying our lives down for the good of others (John 15:13). Everyday we are given opportunities to serve people in tangible, Christ-like ways. It’s impossible to embody love with resentment or bitterness in our hearts.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote some words which can help us pursue humility and love. He said, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV). When we fixate on our own interests, discord ensues. On the contrary, if we look to the interests of others, harmony and unity follow.
Jesus said he came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). Such an approach to life is challenging in a world ruled by self; however, the call ever before us is to live countercultural lives. Everyone will know we follow Jesus if we love one another (John 13:35). We will not be formed into Christ-likeness if we do not take holiness and humility seriously. There is work for us to do. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). The Spirit of God will assist us to that end.
When we are faced with unpleasant people or ideas and opinions that clash with our own, we have two options available to us. The first is, we can reflect the heart of the world by fighting and dividing. Christ will not be magnified by such an approach. The second, we can unite around the person and work of Jesus, live the way he lived, and magnify our maker in ways we can’t now imagine.
Imitate Christ, friends. Don’t look for the unfollow button.