Do you ever find yourself getting into discussions or debates, either in person or on social media, over things like politics, social issues, religion, etc., only to find yourself feeling thoroughly frustrated, or maybe even downright angry? Well, welcome to 21st Century America. There are so many issues that divide us, and because of outlets like social media, it’s becoming easier and easier to debate over such things. Engaging in debate can be a good if done constructively, but the problem is that too many of us don’t know how to do it without it becoming divisive.
When someone doesn’t accept our beliefs or opinions, we often get angry and want to lash out, marginalize them, or even resort to insults and name calling. When this happens on social media outlets like Facebook, we often deal with it by saying to ourselves, “I’ll show them!”, and then we click “Unfriend”. The person who has been unfriended is now considered an enemy, forever banished from our lives. This might sound kind of extreme, but it happens every day. Instead of learning how to engage in healthy debate in a way where our relationships remain intact, we often just choose to delete the person from our lives.
While that kind of anger and hostility on social media outlets like Facebook is a relatively new phenomenon, it’s been taking place in the human arena ever since the beginning of mankind, and hatred or even death is often the result. Jesus’ disciples weren’t immune from it, either. Luke chapter 9 records a time when Jesus and some of His followers, including James and John, were traveling through Samaria and the people in a certain Samaritan village where Jesus wanted to stay rejected Him. There was already a tremendous amount of racial tension between the Jews and Samaritans, and this only added fuel to the fire. What should be the reaction to such rejection? Well, if you ask James and John, it was to call down fire from heaven to destroy them! Here’s what it says in Luke 9:51-56: 51 When the days drew near for him [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.
The reason Jesus rebuked them was because He wanted to show James and John, and all of us today, that if we are serious about wanting to change the world, we need to love and do good to those we might consider to be our enemies, not destroy them. In fact, just a few chapters earlier in Luke chapter 6 Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Apparently, James and John didn’t get the memo; because it wasn’t long after that they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume those who were rejecting their message.
While most of us probably wouldn’t want to go so far as to call down fire from heaven on people who disagree with our deeply held convictions and beliefs, loving and doing good to those who have expressed hostile disagreement toward us can be quite a challenge. However, it’s important to realize that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. We can’t wait until we feel like loving people who don’t think, believe, act, or look like we do; we have to make the choice to love. If we would all choose love, especially toward those we disagree with, by saying kind words to them, treating them like a friend, or extending the proverbial olive branch if the relationship has been fractured because of some disagreement, this will become a lot better world for our children to grow up in. This doesn’t mean that we have to compromise our beliefs and convictions; it just means that even if someone doesn’t believe the way we do, we’re going to love them anyway. Let’s all choose love!