I posted some pictures the other day on Facebook that I had taken while out for a hike this past Monday. I shared that my favorite time of fall is the earliest part of it, when some of the leaves begin to change, contrasting with the still-green leaves around them. There’s just something about that contrast that I love.
In contrast to this beautiful contrast of colors (full pun intended), our country has once more been polarized into a contrast of opinions and ideas. The confirmation process for the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in which a woman accusing him of sexual assault while they were in high school, has once again poured salt into the wounds of political divide in our country. Once again, sadly, we don’t just disagree but we are angry. Some of us are angry that a woman who obviously endured so much pain is not being taken seriously when making accusations about someone about to be appointed to the highest court in the land. Others of us are angry that an accusation no corroborating evidence is being used by politicians to prevent a new Justice from joining the Court, and are doing so by destroying the reputation of that nominee, and that “guilty until presumed innocent” has now become acceptable in the United States of America.
Of course it’s not wrong to disagree. And of course we’re going to feel passionately about important disagreements. What is sad is that what seems to have been lost is not only civil and fair ways to have a discussion, but that even Christians are now justifying the hatred they feel in their hearts.
We’re never going to solve all of our differences and neither do we need to. Different views are no more ugly or no more undesirable then the different colors of leaves on the trees in early fall. Different ideas are merely a contrast of one in comparison to the other. Seen from a political point of view, these differences can be very positive and powerful in strengthening a society by healthy discussion. But when contrast becomes conflict–and intractably so–there is very little to stop this process from devolving from anger to hatred to real and lasting division.
Christians are not here in this society to bring conflict but to be the “salt of the earth.” We are here to bring the “flavor” of truth and peace and love. This doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree, either with ourselves or each other. In fact there are times when we are called to disagree and disagree vehemently. But as Christians one of our chief duties is to guard the heart. Our heart. Our own heart. I can disagree with someone from a different point of view, and I can even be angered by the disagreement. What I am not permitted as a Christian to justify, however, is holding anything but full and complete love for my brother or sister sitting across the political aisle. When did love become so out of fashion?
It’s not the first time love has been out of fashion. In many ways it always has been. But Jesus came not to show us the way to be fashionable, but the way to love. That love wasn’t always puppies and sunshine and butterflies. He called his opponents a “brood of vipers” and “white-washed tombs.” He overturned the tables of the money-changers, made a whip and drove them out of the
Temple. In many ways He appears to be angry like we’re angry, and to justify the beating we sometimes want to inflict upon those who hold views in contrast to our dearly-held ones. But here’s where we’re wrong and where we need to learn: Jesus always loves. Always. Like us, He can feel and act on righteous anger. But never without love. Can we say the same? He suffered and died for everyone, including the ones who most angered Him.
Yes, we Christians have a place in this dialogue and any dialogue within our society. We offer our views not out of arrogance but out of a desire to share the treasure we have received. What we may not do if we are to act as to Christians is to act out of anything other than love. Love that is, St Paul says, “Patient and kind… it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right,” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). We can disagree and love. We can be angry and love. We cannot despise or hate and love.
The beautiful and bright red and orange leaves of early fall do not despise their green neighbors and neither should we have anything but love for those whose views contrast with ours. We can celebrate and enjoy the contrast of color sprinkled around us at this time of year and allow it to remind us that differences need not be hateful nor destructive. They can, indeed, be beautiful and lead to more understanding, more peace and more unity. Couldn’t we all use a bit more of that these days?