Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. (Hosea 14:9, NLT)
In our so-called “postmodern world,” everybody seems to be entitled to their own version of the truth. Today’s people can receive “news” that aligns with their ideological perspective. In previous days, when there were far fewer information mediums and news channels, there were still biases, but agree or disagree, it was possible to have common ground for communication.
However, today, because of the increase in social media and its capability of custom tailoring the information to which we are exposed, it has become almost impossible to have a dialogue with those who do not share the same perspective. “Fact-checkers,” with their own biases and prejudices, have done very little to stem the prevalence of “fake news” and other propaganda. It is no wonder that common civility is in short supply when there is such a wide gulf between left and right, or red and blue.
We would like to be able to say that Christ-followers have been able to rise above the pettiness and the contention because the position of “being in Christ” should unite us with a bond that is stronger and of greater importance than anything else, but sadly that is not often the case. How can we bring together, brothers and sisters, who profess to be Christ-followers, but have seemingly little in common? Is there any hope of finding common ground?
Identifying that there is a problem is not been difficult. However, the path of reconciliation will not be found without humility, vulnerability, and sacrifice, perhaps even unilaterally. If we wait for consensus, it may be an exercise in futility.
The text from Hosea makes its appeal to those with wise understanding and discernment. To paraphrase, “God’s way is the right way, stay on his road and you will live.” When worldviews are divergent and the baggage of emotional and cultural experiences seem impossible to negotiate, remember that Jesus called for those to come to him who were “weary and heavy-laden.” He did not say, “first be refreshed and dump your baggage, and then you can come to me.”
We can reflect upon the fact that Jesus chose Simon, the Zealot (a nationalist) and Matthew, a tax collector (a Roman minion) to both be his disciples. They could not have had much in common, but Jesus brought them together; and walk together, they would. What can we do to bring those with contradictory perspectives to walk together on the path of Jesus? Just to be clear, we are talking about those who profess to be followers of Christ. Here are a few suggestions.
- Sacrificial love: Remember that if our goal is our own vindication or validation instead of reconciliation, we will not have success. Love must be the foundation. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. 1 Peter 4:8 (The Message). Sacrificial love is not dependent upon the recipient being deserving or worthy but draws its motivation by remembering that we were loved when we were undeserving and unworthy.
- Intentional Listening: In the movie Cool Hand Luke, the prison warden says to Paul Newman’s character, “Son, what we have here is a failure to communicate.” Considering our spectrum of histories and experiences, it is no wonder that we struggle to relate with one another. Jesus told us: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:24, NIV). It is impossible to judge correctly without carefully taking the time to listen first.
- Humility, Gentleness, and Patience: One of the greatest obstacles that we face is the inherent need to be proven correct. Self-vindication could be the cause of more division in the body of Christ than almost anything else. Even doctrinal differences have surfaced from a lack of humility, gentleness, and patience. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2–3, NIV). Take notice of the emphasis on “make every effort.” Not just a weak or halfhearted try, but an enthusiastic effort.
To summarize, God’s words through the prophet Hosea are not directed to everyone, but to the ones who are wise, understanding, and discerning. There are many enticing voices in the world today seductively luring people away from God’s path. It grieves us to see people lose their way and wander off the path, but we must not give up on them because God never gave upon us.
“My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.” (James 5:19–20, The Message)
A favorite hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face And the things of earth (red and blue, left and right, liberal and conservative) will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” The common ground is found by coming to the cross and to Jesus. Only Jesus can break down the walls that separate us.
We pray that God will give us the wisdom and discernment, along with the patience to stand firm well reaching out to give a hand to someone who has stumbled off or left the godly path. We will love sacrificially, we will listen to understand and with humility, gentleness, and patience we will bear with one another in love and we will be diligent to make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. Amen!