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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Living in a Divisive and Polarized World

Often when I am troubled, I need to listen.  I need to ask the question, why am I troubled?  These thoughts have come pouring out of me today and I pray they will encourage others.

I have been deeply saddened by the divisiveness and polarization of the world we live in. There is a lot of anger, fear mongering, and some of it (in my opinion) is very justified.

Deep divides are in our neighboring country, the United States (or not so united?), and this has spilled into our Canadian world and the whole world.  We cannot say we are not affected.  Not only does this divide occur on a global level, but it affects communities, and even families.

I realize we are deeply affected by what we see on a daily basis, and what we read.  Our news feeds are filled with opinions, and often we only read or absorb things that match up with our point of view.  We live in a biased world, and rarely do we have all the facts.

There are many things that divide.  I read an interesting dialogue this morning on vaccinations.  Now there is a hot topic, and people (rightly so) feel very strongly about it.

When I read letters to the editor in our local newspaper, there is a lot of discussion about traffic lights in certain places and crosswalks in others.  And people are passionate about sharing their viewpoints.

There are a few things I hate.  There, I said it.

When it comes to this subject of divisiveness, the two that come to the top of the list are these:

I hate bullying.  Please note I did NOT say I hate the bully.  But I do hate bullying, and have a strong urge to stand up for those who are bullied.

I hate arrogance.  The stance that I am right, and will not listen to your point of view or listen to your story.  This is so very wrong, in my opinion.

Oh yes, I can have an opinion.  And I shared an opinion just last week on this blog, something I felt strongly about.  But when I think about whom I follow,  a Jesus follower, I see Christ as someone who cared for the marginalized, who SAT with them, who listened to their stories.

I often encourage those I counsel, (myself included) to pray this simple prayer:  "God please show me Your truth.  Not my truth, not the other's truth, nor the truth that is biased through my own lens or interpretation, but God's truth."  I believe when we truly ask God for wisdom, without our bias, God will show us the way.

There are some things I believe are important, and I pray I can live my life within these standards:

Can I truly live my life with the lens of love?  How do I measure my actions and motivations and speech?  Is it measured with love?  Jesus spoke so clearly of this when he spoke of the greatest commandments.. the first is loving God, and the 2nd loving my neighbour as myself.  Who is my neighbour?

We have become a global community.  We are all interconnected through television, through the internet.  This is a large neighbourhood.  Can I truly love others as Jesus asked me to?  Without judging them first?

Can I be kind?  I often get teased that my favorite "mom" saying was "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!"  Probably some double negatives in there, but you get the drift.  I don't know when I've seen so much unkindness, as in recent months.  Perhaps that is the product of social media.  I'm all for free speech and having an opinion, but how do I share that?  Can I be kind?

Can I listen?  Truly listen?  Listen without judgement, without a "I can fix you" attitude?  Week after week I meet people who long to be listened to.  Sometimes I meet people who have left faith or Christianity or church because they were not able to ask the questions, to tell their stories, to truly be heard.  This breaks my heart.  Can we be compassionate servants who truly listen?

I'm tired of sides, or polarization.  And perhaps there is no getting around it.  But I feel called to be someone who calls for peace, for moderation, for truly listening to one another.  I think of that favourite scripture of mine which I have quoted often from Romans 12:18:  "If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceable with all men."    

And when it comes to peace, let it begin with me.  And I pray we can join in that prayer, as we live in this broken world.  Prayer for wisdom to become peacemakers, to love those who need it most.

thanks for listening.  <3 Grace


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