We’re all reflecting on the state of the world these days–on social media, with groups of friends, and privately. We’ve all got strong opinions and we’ve all got good intentions. But, given our polar-opposite opinions, the strength of those opinions, and the conviction that we’re operating with the best of intentions, we’re coming across as tone-deaf, insensitive, ignorant, wrong, or selfish, if we’re talking with those who do not share our opinions.
When scrolling through Catholic social media, it’s often assumed that the audience shares the same opinions as the poster. [*sigh* That’s not always the case.] She’s convinced that she’s following the will of God, and my opposing stance is equally rooted in biblical evidence that this other person’s convictions go against the teaching of the Gospel.
She’s convinced I’m totally misguided.
I’m convinced she’s totally misguided.
We’re all frustrated that some of those who profess to share our core, guiding principles come to completely opposite conclusions about important points.
Aren’t we supposed to be one body of believers, one body in Christ? Paul told us to “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.” (Col 3:15) But how can we be at peace with other members of the Church who also interpret current events in light of the Gospel and come to completely opposite opinions about those events?
“For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function.” (Rom 12:4) Here, Paul might be saying some of us are the intestines of the Body of Christ, sucking in nutrients for the Body. Others of us may be kidneys, filtering out toxins and impurities. Both are necessary. A body can’t function without kidneys. A body can’t function without intestines. But those two parts can’t understand each other, as they are designed to perform completely opposite functions.
Now, how literally should we take this comparison? Regardless of the part of the body we may be, we are called to live in peace with the rest of the Body of Christ. Given the amount of New Testament that was dedicated to this topic, it’s clear that the Early Church had just as difficult a time getting along together this as we do today.
So What Do We Do?
Should we just retreat into our own echo chambers?
That’s not living as the Body of Christ–that’s living in a box of intestines. And intestines by themselves are pretty useless. So we continue to struggle to understand each other. We’ll get mad. We’ll pray for patience and understanding and illumination. We’ll forgive each other.
I have no solid, step-by-step instructions on how to bridge our divides.
I’m just as frustrated as everyone else.
But, at least, we’re all frustrated together!
However, consider Paul’s reflection of his life as a persecutor or the Church:
“I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
-1 Tim 1:12-14
Paul was acting with the best of intentions, trying to follow the will of God. But as he said, he “acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.” Out of his ignorance, people were rounded up and brutally murdered.
However, he converted because he was treated mercifully.
Do we treat others with mercy? Has the grace that we share with others–even others that don’t agree with us–been abundant? Are our faith and love apparent?
We’re all acting out of the best of intentions. We may even be acting out of love. But if we’re not extending grace, mercy, and love to those who don’t agree with us, what are we doing?
Whatever our position is, whatever righteousness we think we have–that righteousness isn’t righteous unless it’s bathed in grace, mercy, and love.
If you want some more reading on this subject, check out Timothy Keller & John Inazu’s Uncommon Ground, a collection from a variety of authors from a Christian perspective on how to navigate polarizing conversations and situations.
Photo of Blue Rope by Elizabeth Morgan on Unsplash.