An hour and a half. One of my African American friends took an unexpected, unplanned hour and a half of his time, with my full attention, to explain why he has been putting together protests. A few days—that’s how long another African American friend spent texting me as she shared her perspective on all that has been going on.
I’m a white woman dating a black man. There were a few weeks where we discussed racial tensions every day nearly all day long trying to find truth in the midst of a manipulative, media-controlled world.
Beside the name in my bio at the bottom of this piece, you’ll see that I have the responsibility of leading this incredible team of gifted bloggers.
My friend Melissa, who happens to be black, wrote a three-part series for us on race. When you read it, you can almost tangibly feel her pain. My friend, a police officer’s wife, who happens to be white, also shared a blog about the current climate of our nation. When you read it, you can almost tangibly feel her pain. While it may not be the same type of pain or pain inflicted in the same way, we all feel pain.
To experience pain is not to negate someone else’s pain; it is to be human. It is to exist in this world. It is to feel. It is to care.
As a human; as a white woman dating a black man; as a friend; as a leader who handles the approval of these blogs to be published and influence readers; and most importantly, as a believer and follower of Jesus, I have felt an overwhelming amount of tension. The tension to make sure that every woman feels heard and valued, whether I (or anyone else) agrees with every single thing she says. The tension to make sure that what is shared is more unifying than it is divisive. The tension to make sure that in all things, Christ is glorified.
Above our emotions.
Above our opinions.
Above our experiences.
Above what our parents have passed down.
Above our differences.
This is exactly where so many of us have been missing it: There is middle ground. There is a way to have peace. There is a way to live in a world with people who don’t see things the way you do.
The problem is that we have a society of people trying to fix our problems with everything except the only One who can fix us: Jesus.
We take the command to “love thy neighbor” (Matthew 22:39, KJV) and apply it only to our neighbors who hop on our bandwagons. We accuse anyone who’s not on our bandwagon of being judgmental, unloving, hateful, misunderstanding, or not “getting it.” “If you believe this, you believe hate and, therefore, you hate me.” We assume that, because they’re for one thing, they’re completely against another.
We assume instead of ask.
We accuse instead of discuss.
We hear instead of listen.
We retaliate instead of respond.
Everything is so extreme and polarized.
Why can’t we agree on some points and disagree on others? When did we have to see eye to eye 100% of the time in order to have a relationship with someone? Can you honestly think of anyone in your life with whom you agree 100%?
“Love thy neighbor”—even if their point has no statistical evidence to support it, even if what they are saying is completely based on emotion, even if they take their own personal experiences and make assumptions about an entire group of people.
Even if they’re mean.
Even if they don’t listen and don’t care to listen.
Even if you feel invalidated.
This isn’t about agreeing on every point; it’s about learning to listen to understand instead of listening to respond. We all approach every situation in life through the lens of our experiences and what we’ve been taught. What we need to do is approach every situation in life through the lens of the Gospel.
Jesus said it’s easy to love those who are easy to love, and it is (Luke 6:3-33, NIV). It’s really not hard to love people who see things the way you do. Right or wrong, the only way we will ever begin bridging gaps is learning to listen. I’m not talking to any “side” or group here. I’m talking to any person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. When we realize that someone is on a different page than we are and we immediately shut down, we shut down all communication and, therefore, shutdown all progress and hopes of moving forward.
Ask yourself: “What does it look like to really love my neighbor?”
I can tell you this—nothing about true love is convenient. In fact, it is the opposite. It is highly inconvenient. Jesus went to the cross while people falsely accused Him, persecuted Him, mocked Him, and tortured Him. And do you know what He said about it? “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34, NIV). And the thing is—He was going to the cross for them.
Jesus tells us that we are to pick up our own cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-26).
What about picking up a cross seems easy to you?
Nothing. There is nothing easy about picking up a cross and carrying it. There is nothing easy about loving people we don’t agree with or people we feel don’t really see us. There is nothing easy about living in this fractured and broken world stained with sin and dripping in pain.
So what can we do?
Love our neighbor.
Pray for them.
Pick up our cross.
Embrace what is uneasy, knowing that Jesus embracing the uneasy saved us.
And maybe, just maybe, we will see peace rise in the midst of chaos.