It's a common complaint: the internet has given us the distance and opportunity to be hateful. We have forgotten how to have civilized conversation about sensitive and passion-provoking topics. Our culture is one of divisiveness and extremes. Us versus them. For us or against us. Tolerance has become synonymous with agreement.
But a funny thing happened a few weeks ago. I read a Civil War novel (Storm Clouds Rolling In, by Ginny Dye) that reminded me very vividly that passionate division is nothing new. Disagreement turning to hatefulness is nothing new. Of course, throughout history, this often leads to more open conflict like civil wars, revolutionary wars.
So it's no surprise then, that when the Bible talks about what the Kingdom of God looks like...it specifically addresses how we talk to each other, how we disagree with each other, and how we treat each other. If we call ourselves children of God, If we consider ourselves part of the Kingdom of God, then we are called to look different. To act different. To BE different than those who have not yet taken up residence in that Kingdom. And the funny thing is, if I'm full of the Spirit, living a Kingdom life...that's going to make God's Kingdom look like a pretty great place. Maybe it will make people want to find out how to live there too.
I will be the first to say that sometimes God does ask us to rise up, stand against evil, and seek justice particularly for those who are marginilized or can't easily help themselves (how many times does Jesus tell us to take care of widows and orphans? A lot. And that's just one example). I believe God calls us to speak truth and live rightly, and when the circumstances call for it (mostly when it comes to other God-followers), to gently and lovingly point someone who is sinning back to Jesus -- to come alongside them and walk with them back into reconciliation with God.
Much of what God calls us to do comes down to relationship. Relationship with him, relationship with others. Not everyone has a public forum, and not everyone needs one. If God gives you an opportunity to do good, fight for truth, make a difference in making our broken and hurting world a little better or a little more in line with what God wants -- take the opportunity! If it's on a large scale -- awesome! If it's on a small scale -- awesome! Sometimes it's taking the time to vote, or taking the time to say hello to your neighbor, or offering someone a cup of cold water or a smile.
Several Bible verses have really stood out to me lately and seem particularly applicable our cultural atmosphere of vitriol. I'll say it again: it's okay to share what you believe, and it's okay if that's different from what someone else believes, and it's even okay to be bold in the right context. What I want to think about these days though, is not always what I'm saying, but how I'm saying it. I want to ask myself if I'm listening, not just talking (it's called conversation). Am I praying for discernment that God will help me know when, what, and how to speak to others about tricky subjects.
"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." - Galations 6:9-10
"Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. he will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him..." Psalm 37:1-7
"Before destruciton a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor" Proverbs 18:12 (pride goes before the fall)
"If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame...an intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge...death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who live it will eat its fruits." Proverbs 18:13, 15, 21
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to dirnk; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:18-21
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22