Believe it or not, we’re just 19 months away from the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and the foiled attack that ended in that field in PA.
Those of you who were alive and aware are immediately flooded with emotion, sensation, memories, and the like that bring back that “I remember where I was when…” feeling. It’s sobering.
In the hours and days that followed those Tuesday morning attacks, even in the midst of our anger, confusion, and righteous indignation, there was a “this is a new America” wind in the air. It wasn’t about our newly discovered vulnerabilities but rather our newly discovered or rediscovered commitment to unity. Every type of human life was lost on that day and no one cared in the slightest what the victims’ political views, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation was. None of that mattered. America was attacked and we stood united as a resolute nation. It was even more striking in those days that the “United States” was abbreviated by and wonderfully defined by “US”.
But fast forward to today and I don’t think we’ve ever been so preoccupied by ourselves as we currently are. Further, we have never been so eager to draw lines as we seem to be right now. Not merely draw lines but build walls between ourselves and anyone else who holds a different opinion, view, or conviction about any particular topic at all.
Not only that, but we have allowed ourselves to stoop to the indignity of calling each other “haters” and “______phobes” when we do not see eye to eye on an issue. Rather than an arm-linked respect for those who see things differently, we instead isolate and insulate ourselves from the others; from which we lob disparaging remarks or commentary for the sake of proving a point and/or standing our ground.
It’s a sad state we’re in.
Now, lest you think I’m in some ivory tower looking down my judgmental nose at the masses, you can think again. I’m simply one human who finds himself in the midst of a mess of a nation that for the most part seems quite content or even ambivalent at its condition. On the contrary, we’re seeming to revel in our division. I used to blame the faceless trolls that glide from comment section to comment section, sowing seeds of dissension and disagreement but at the heart, its far more widespread than that. When we don’t actively rail against division, we by default contribute to it.
Now, let me also say that lines, boundaries, standards, and even taking sides have their place. In the Old Testament, we can hear the voice of Joshua echoing to us today, “Choose you this day whom you will serve….as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Jesus Himself seemed to acknowledge and support the idea that there actually ARE sides to choose. And how about that time He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34). And don’t forget that when the Son of Man returns “and all His holy angels with Him, then he will divide the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…” (Read all about it in Matt. 25:31-46).
So I’m not saying we sweep important issues (the 2020 Superbowl Halftime show does NOT qualify) under the rug and just hug it out. But I am dreaming of a day when we can return to a civilized discourse that seeks to understand the view of the others who seem to stand on the opposite side of the line we find ourselves on. What if we could dignify each other by simply seeking a better grasp on the view before we spew out our own views? Or better yet, what if we simply pointed people to truth AND love as we seek only to serve them in humility? What a concept, right? (Please don’t think that is an original sentiment with me. This is Jesus–through and through.)
Yes, I think division has its place. I think battle lines are actually biblical. But I know just as certainly that we all have a spiritual enemy who’s only desire is destruction by division. So long as he can get us to build walls, he will be in the luxurious position of “shooting fish in a barrel.”
Who do I need to build a bridge to today? What comments have I made that need to be retracted, along with an apology that they were made in the first place? What hill(s) am I willing to die on? And just as critically, what hills am I NOT willing to die on? Jesus chose one. and thank God He did.
So, let’s be people of passion. But let’s be people of truth AND love. Let’s be the very reflection of Jesus to those around us, regardless of their stance on __________. Let’s find a way under God to treat those around us with the respect and dignity we would want (and usually demand) for ourselves.