To my Christian friends, before you start reacting make note of the small “s” in the spelling for spirit.
It has been awhile since I have written and I want to complete a short explanation of our guidelines. I have previously addressed (1) the assumption of good will, and (2) listening to understand. I need to find a more succinct way to say it but (3) is don’t get into the spirit of anger and fear that is going on all around us. Social media is rife with it. Many years ago I heard a marriage seminar persons say, “If you fight with your spouse to win, both lose.”
No matter what they are saying and who is right or wrong this isn’t going to end well for these two. It is entirely possible to be completely correct in an argument and dead wrong. Unfortunately, this is what too many look like today. Instead of honoring the other, or listening to understand we are trying to out shout and the other. Actually, it seems as though we are trying to out shame each other these days in our public conversations.
I’ll write more about this as we go along but a number of years ago I realized that I could over power some with my force of argument, but any subsequent behavior change never lasted, because it was a change forced by power, soul power, that produced compliance and not genuine understanding or change. I know the media plays this up and loves to show the conflict, but when two sides of an issue face off in the streets and it gets into a shouting match with anger and hatred being expressed the argument no longer matters and everyone lose.
I am trying to resist the sarcasm and anger that rises up on me when I encounter perspectives that radically differ from my own. When I read the angry comment of the other if it provokes anger in me then the enemy of us all has us both right where he wants us. But I need to speak, I need to express my thoughts. This is not a time to disengage but a time to engage constructively and in a spirit that is seeking accord even if we can’t find it. I have been paying close attention to what is going on in my emotions as I read the news or an op ed about some current issue. Learning to listen to understand starts with listening to yourself. Am I getting angry or bitter because I am afraid. Then I have a faith issue. Is it because I feel threatened? If so, am I? If I get into the same spirit that is coming at me from the “other” then that spirit has won already. I know I already wrote that, but I need to remind myself over and over.
I titled this “Resist the spirit…”. If you are a Christ follower you know that comes from a Bible verse that says, “Resist the devil and he will flee.” My challenge to those following this conversation is to resist the hatred, the sarcasm (both sides are filled with sarcastic comments), the fear, the disrespect and the dehumanization of anyone, even your worst enemy.
I’ll end this with an experience I had today on Facebook. There is a pastor in Canada who refused to allow the authorities to come into his church for an inspection. He had every right to do so and eventually forced them to leave. The post I saw was celebrating how he handled the authorities and putting him up as an example of how we should all resist unwarranted intrusion from unauthorized officials. I believe he may be an example of doing the right thing in a completely inappropriate way including calling the officials the gestapo and Nazis. He was violent in his opposition and could have accomplished even more had he made his stand with respect, without name calling and in the Spirit of his Lord rather than the spirit of those with whom he was in conflict.
Lord help us to be bold with quiet strength and not the rancor of our age.