In the troubled times in which we live, we are more connected than ever before. But we are also more divided than in the past. The growing division between political parties should be of no surprise. The unrest in our cities and the increasing dissension on moral, ethical, racial, family, and gender issues is alarming– but should not be surprising. People can’t even agree on safe practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Should we wear masks, or not? Should we social distance, or socialize as before? Is this virus a serious threat, or blown way out of proportion? Since there is not agreement on health and safety practices, it’s no surprise that people are so polarized about cultural, political, educational, financial, racial, moral, and ethical issues?
There’s a lot of talk about the global community and being globally connected these days, but we are also seeing individualism increase and with it self-sufficiency and self-centeredness.
Everyone should be allowed to form and express their own opinions. There should be a willingness to listen to opinions that might differs from one’s own and continue to treat the person with kindness and respect. That’s tolerance. Sadly, in recent years, tolerance has been redefined. Many now expect their opinions not only to be heard, but also to be affirmed. And, if the hearer does not affirm the viewpoint, then the person is intolerant. That is not intolerance. It is viewpoint discrimination. Just as the person offering the opinion has the right to do so, so also the person hearing the opinion has the right to agree or disagree.
Defining tolerance as affirmation comes at the expense of truth. And its profoundly affecting Christians who stand on God’s truths. They are called intolerant and discriminated against by those who are not willing to listen to, or tolerate, a viewpoint that does not agree with their own. As Christians, our viewpoints are readily denied as having any merit, rejected completely, and even ridiculed. So what are we to do?
No one should practice viewpoint discrimination, but all people should have viewpoint discernment. Discrimination sets up dissension. Discernment stimulates dialogue.
Challenging Times of Non-discerned Viewpoint Overload
Social media has connected people in ways that were unimaginable only ten years ago. What started out as a way to connect with family and friends has evolved into a platform for everyone’s thoughts and ideas to be posted — no matter whether the posts are supported in reality and truth or fabricated in misconceptions and lies.
These days, everyone has a “platform” to voice their thoughts, ideas, opinions, as well as their dissatisfactions with anything from dinner at a restaurant to the social, political, racial, moral, and ethical issues, as well as any and all events in our country. (Yes, we do note that some people use social media as a way to encourage and express gratitude, to post true and well-supported information, and even to preach the gospel. But sadly, negativity and unsupported opinions seem to be far out-weighing positivity and facts.)
So, in light of all that is occurring today — social, civil, and racial unrest, and declining morals, ethics, values, etc — and during this time of pandemic, when fear (or at least great concern) clouds our lives — how can we, as Christians, make a difference? It begins with rightly remembering.
1. Remember Your God — Pray
As Christians, our first course of action should always be to pray. When Nehemiah was instructed by God to build the walls around Jerusalem (a huge undertaking, but one that was needed to protect the city), he sought the Lord in prayer (Neh 1:4). We know that God promises to lead and guide us in all we do (Ps 32:8, Prov 3:5-6, John 16:13). Only by God’s direction and empowerment can we be effective in bringing about good for our nation, our communities, and our families and friends (Phil 4:13).
2. Remember Your Commission
We have been commissioned by Jesus to be His ambassadors to share the gospel of saving grace. It is our job to build the Kingdom of God on earth by bringing lost souls to Jesus, so they can be reconciled unto God (2 Cor 5:20). This is our Great Commission, and it is our most important work. It should be our great joy to serve God in this way.
Lost, repentant sinners entering into the Kingdom of God, builds the family of God. Only as brothers and sisters in Christ, and guided by our heavenly Father, will we have unity of mind and purpose in life that will move us more and more into the way in which God intended His creation to live. This will have an effectual change on our nation and around the world.
3. Remember to be Relational
Social media connects people ten miles wide, but only one inch deep. In other words, we are connected to more people than ever before, but most of those connections are not very deep or meaningful. Be discerning about your relationships. Treasure those that are encouraging, empowering, and life-enriching.
But what about those relationships that are draining, discouraging, and detrimental to one’s soul? Not every relationship is meant to last. Some relationships are for life. Others might only be for a season or a reason. Remember that Jesus didn’t heal every sick person He encountered. Nor did He preach words of truth to everyone He met. He spoke openly to many but only those with ears-to-hear engaged relationally with Him. And even then, only some followed Him.
Test the “waters” of all relationships. Be discerning. Determine if the water is clear, clean and deep. Or, if the water is murky, toxic, and shallow.
When it comes to preaching the gospel, the “waters” of relationship are no different than the “soils” of the heart (Matt 13:18-23). You can’t “cultivate” rocky, thorny soil, and you shouldn’t “swim” in dirty, toxic waters.
After testing the “water,” “swim” in the clear, deep waters, cultivating relationships with those who have an open heart and ears to hear. Preach the gospel and share the truths of Jesus’ love and redemption. Tell of the exceeding joys of knowing Him and living according to His will and ways. In the “clean, clear waters,” whether shallow or deep, be diligent to build relationships. But if the “water” is dirty and toxic, be discerning and know when to move on.
4. Remember in Non-relational Outreach be Purposeful and Christ-like
You can’t have a relationship with everyone, but you can have a conversation. Our purpose on this earth is to love God and to live in the joy of our salvation. We can show our love for Jesus, and the joy we have, by sharing His love, mercy, and grace.
Preaching the gospel to any and all, with kindness and gentleness of Spirit, is our greatest service — and social media is a wonderful platform for global outreach, albeit sometimes very impersonal. While you might never have a deep relationship with some on social media, you can have a great effect. You can plant seeds that others can water. And you can share God’s truths, knowing that He has promised His words will never return void (Isa 55:11).
It’s true that you might never know the results of how God’s words change someone’s mind and heart, but you can trust that every word of God that you speak is another “drop of water from Heaven.” Some words will fall on good soil and bring forth much fruit. Others will fail on clean water and increase the depth. Sadly, some will fall on thorny, rocky soil, and murky waters, only to be lost. Whatever the result, it is not your concern.
5. Don’t Lose Your Focus
God is in control. We are only to do our part. God will do the rest. Stay focused on Jesus and your commission to serve Him. Be fervent in prayer. And engage in Christian fellowship. May we all do our job as good ambassadors for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.
Appropriate Words for our Days of Confusion and Unrest
Martin Luther King Jr: The whole concept of the “image of God ” is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. .. . And this gives [man] a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this. . . there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard., precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.
Francis Schaeffer: The ironic fact is that humanism which began with man’s being central eventually had no real meaning for people. On the other hand, if one begins with the Bible’s position that man is created by God and in the image of God, there is a basis for that person’s dignity. . . . People today are trying to hang on to the dignity of man, but they do not know how, because they have lost the truth that man is made in the image of God. . . . You see it in our whole culture — in the theater of cruelty, in the violence in the streets, in the death of man in art and life.
A.W. Tozer: The widest thing in the universe is not space; it is the potential capacity of the human heart. Being made in the image of God, it is capable of almost unlimited extension in all directions. And one of the world’s greatest tragedies is that we allow our hearts to shrink until there is room in them for little besides ourselves.
Plain and Simple — Honor God by Honoring Mankind
All human beings, regardless of race or ethnicity, gender or religion, have been created in the image of God. Those of us who have been saved by Jesus are God’s children. As such, we are empowered by His Spirit to reflect His image by loving all people.
Rightly remember your God and who you are in Christ. Let His Spirit work in and through you. Be a reflection of Him who loves you and has given you everything.
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