Lately, outrage is everywhere. It seems that everybody is mad about something, and feeling “triggered” is practically considered a virtue. Even justifiable anger over real problems frequently seems blown-out-of-proportion and unnecessarily life-impacting. Just in the past week I’ve seen people seething over Donald Trump, gluten, home decor, sexism, Kevin Spacey, God, the cultural appropriation of tacos, and whether or not seducing your own brother is a good idea.
Wait for it: The Starbucks Holiday Cup Scandal of 2017 is coming!
Many of these issues are extremely important. Mixed in with the mundane and the ludicrous are psychological war-zones and moral travesties. Issues such as sexual assault, child abuse, terrorism, bullying, politics, and religion, are weighty and should be discussed. But how do we moderate ourselves? How do we consider hot topics without letting them ruin our day or alienate our friends? How to we handle controversy without becoming overwrought with anxiety?
Love Your Enemies
Think about how counter-cultural this basic Biblical idea is:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Even in America – the epicenter of free speech, freedom of religion, and democracy – this is a revolutionary concept. Imagine how wild and crazy it must have sounded 2,000 years ago in Roman-occupied Israel where people were crucified for their opinions.
Today, not everyone who disagrees with us is our enemy. Not everyone who thinks differently than us is persecuting us. If we are called to love even our enemies, how much more should we love people of opposing views? How much more should we pray for people with different ideals? If we are commanded to love and pray for antagonizing foes, then we should be just as gracious if not more so to Democrats, Republicans, feminists, right-wingers, left-wingers, and yes, even ornery bigots.
Loving the Unlovable
Of course, part of the reason that Jesus gave us such an impossible commandment in the first place, was to remind us that we can’t. We can’t love our enemies. We can’t wholeheartedly ask God to forgive horrible people who get under our skin and make us nuts. We can give it a really good try. We can be polite to the condescending troll on Twitter and respectfully block them. We can keep our mouths shut when the judgmental gal at the park criticizes our kids. We can resist the urge to complain when our boss asks unreasonable things and never says thank you.
I’m not feeling it. Are you?
Sometimes love isn’t a feeling, but an action. Sometimes loving someone means having the wisdom to resist the urge to humiliate and degrade. While we are called to “speak the truth in love,” we are not called to erroneously ascribe people as racist, sexist, privileged, crazy, libtards, or Nazis, just because we have a difference of opinion. Sometimes loving someone means stepping back, remembering that they are made in the image of God, and trusting that God is sovereign over their hearts. Loving them may be our job, but changing their beliefs is not. Verbally bludgeoning someone – even with verifiable facts – never has a conciliatory effect.
Win the War, Not the Battle
Exhale and realize that you don’t have to win every discussion. Having the last word is not always winning. In fact, sometimes getting that last word in, is more like pounding a coffin nail into your argument. If you speak the truth, five million people can call you a liar, but you’ll still be right. You are answerable to God, not men. Speak the truth in love, and leave the rest to God. It is not your job to save souls or change minds. Stop trying to control things that you can’t control. Stop assuming responsibility for things that aren’t your responsibility. You are the messenger, not the battle ax, and not the Messiah. Don’t be like Peter and slice off the ear of the Roman soldier who attacked Jesus. Be like Jesus, and by your actions show the battle-hardened Centurion, that surely, Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Also, remember that you’re not just talking to one person. When you discuss hot topics on social media, you’re addressing a very broad audience. Not everyone who considers your words is going to chime in. Sometimes, people just watch. Remember your silent audience, and don’t muddy your talking points with emotional outbursts, careless quips, and dramatic accusations. These are speed-bumps to the truth.
Every time we speak the truth with compassion, we are planting seeds. Our opponent may not change their minds today, next year, or even ever. However, the ideas which we share calmly and with humility have the power to change lives. It may take our words, plus the words of others over the course of a decade, to influence a person’s opinions. Nevertheless, every word contributes, like pebbles to a landslide.
SJW vs. WWJD
What’s the difference between trendy cultural outrage and righteous grief over sin? The difference is in our hearts. Do we love our enemies or do we hate them? Do we have compassion on those we disagree with, or do we condemn them as hopelessly lost? Are we showcasing hope in a dark world? Are we expressing faith in God’s sovereignty despite the apparent chaos all around us?
Faith. Hope. Love.
These are not easy feats. Thankfully, God provides them to us (albeit often in small doses) via His grace.
Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter knows I can be an unmitigated snarky savage. Despite the fact that I know it’s wrong, I am often inwardly proud of my well-aimed zingers. Before you label me a hypocrite though, take it from me that this is an inward battle I am continually struggling with and freely acknowledge.
Thankfully, Jesus has higher standards than I, plus the power to actually attain them. That’s how he was able to live the perfect life and pay the price for all my cynicism, impatience, and irrational agitation. Nevertheless, just because we’re forgiven, doesn’t mean we should revel in asshattery. We are called to love. As people loved by God, attempting to reflect His love to those who don’t love us is the least we can do. We love others for God because we are grateful to God. Like a mirror bouncing the light of the sun into the shadows, may we aspire to dimly reflect the mercy of God into a dark world.