People are wired to think of morality in binary terms- good and evil, us versus them, right versus wrong. This binary way of thinking becomes an issue when our concept of ‘good’ does not rest on an objective truth. It becomes even more of an issue if we associate the term with a person or man-made system. Our culture now is so polarized in two man-made directions that bias in the media is overt and blatant. The bias is so blatant that it causes people to sympathize with the misrepresented party and take the extreme opposite position in response. The truth of the matter is that extremes in each of the man-made directions lead to more division and results in more poverty amongst the most vulnerable. I’ve tasked myself with trying to ignore the bias and to scoop out the truth from the partial information and manipulation that is given from both sides. To do this, I have to reground myself on a daily basis in what is true and Biblical because it is very easy to lose one’s footing when entering the wave pool of opinions. In my search for truth, I often read posts where people argue from both of the sides on an issue. There is usually an arsenal of articles, studies, interviews, and data that is presented from both sides as they make their case. I essentially just allow the people who are obsessing over the material to do the work for me and then I try to present the findings to the real Judge for perspective.
In my eavesdropping on the various people aimlessly floating about in the chaos of public opinion, I notice the conversations tend to turn personal. It is here that I fight with everything within me to stay silent. When one side brings up a character flaw of the other side's champion, the response often turns to finding fault with the person who exposed the flaw. On one occasion I recall one of the individuals did his homework and was even proving the bias of fact-checkers. In response, the other person brought up the researcher’s past failures in college and younger years. Then followed it up with “Like you can talk, you did….” The person who started with a well-researched position immediately retreated to the defensive and the conversation reduced to character attacks back and forth as if that made their champions righteous by comparison. During these character attacks, my heart cried out ‘That is not who you are! It’s just residue of something you were never meant to be.’ I long to encourage each person in the truth and not condemn them by identifying them with their failures. Whenever anyone stands up for righteousness, there will always be a voice using any tactic of condemnation to take focus away from truth. This is by design because once people become confident in who they are made to be and what we are called to do, peace is a natural byproduct.
Lies of Inaction
Parents believe these lies constantly when raising their children in our culture. The lie is, “How can you tell your kid not to do something when you did it when you were their age?” Here is the answer- There were times in our lives when we made decisions based on lies and false truths that seemed right in the moment. Since then, we have acknowledged we were wrong, we have repented, and were forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus. We now can judge that action from a righteous vantage point and declare it wrong, but we also know the source of our righteousness is not of ourselves. Our judgement then should have an element of mercy, love, and encouragement that the wrongdoer also be made whole by aligning with truth. This is what it means to remove the log from your own eye so you can see clearly before trying to remove the speck from someone else's eye (from Matthew 7:5). Notice it does not tell us to refrain from judging, but it gives us the perspective to judge from. Good parents always encourage the best in the ones they love. After experiencing the pain of bad decisions, how can someone justify laying the groundwork for someone they love to fall into the same trap? It is imperative for the ones we love that we view ourselves through the correct lens in order to bring peace to our homes.
Another lie is that associating with people who have done wrong then makes one wrong by association. This one has layers of lies and condemnation attached to it. First, in order to think that, one has to fully condemn a person and identify them as their failure. Second, one must assume that the person is incapable of the forgiveness and restoration given by Christ's sacrifice. Third, if we allow this lie to affect how we interact with others, we have then elevated the opinion of people over that of God.
If a critic brings up your past, rather than retreat into ashamed defensiveness, that is a prime opportunity to share your testimony. Lucky for me, I have many stories and points of past failures that relate to many people and situations. I used to be ashamed of my past and spent many years hiding it from people as if I was still that person and was afraid of people finding me out. I am not still a sinner saved by grace, but a saint being led in righteousness. In Jesus' most famous speech he warns against how we treat and label other people.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.(Matthew 5:21-22)
These words seem pretty harsh to be a Jesus quote, but that is how passionate God is about what we declare over people. To call someone something like ‘you fool’ is labeling them by their shortcomings and not by who Christ gave His life for. Yes, all have sinned and have fallen short, and we were once sinners, but now we are forgiven as if we did not sin. Ryan of old engaged in the foolishness of mob activity, drunkenness, sexual immorality, assault, wild parties, murder through an abortion, a DUI, pornography, lying, cheating, and stealing. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57) I am forgiven and the thought of those things brings a bad taste to my soul. And such were some of you. You may have a past list like mine. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 modified) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) I am now a peacemaker, an ambassador of heaven, of the ministry of reconciliation. I admit that sometimes I do not reflect those titles well, but I am forgiven and beloved. I just need to reground myself in Truth in order to simply be. No matter what my kids do that is contrary to what I teach them, I will always remind them of who they are and love them towards that.
Next post will focus on practical implementation of peacemakers on all sides of the racial issues.