“Dear Kim, I have a question.
I am genuinely struggling, and have been since the election. People who I love and have respected are supporting views which I believe are racist, hateful, and evil. Where do I draw the line at being okay with those differences? Would it have been appropriate for me to stay friends, Facebook or otherwise, with Nazi supporters? Advocates for slavery?
I am not trying to be overly dramatic here – these are the genuine questions I, and I believe many others, are asking ourselves. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.”
Thanks for your note, Anonymous, and I think you are right! Lots of people ARE asking themselves a similar question: Where, when, and how do we draw the line with family and friends who support (implicitly or explicitly) what we would consider to be morally reprehensible?
Like you, I struggle in this area also. My own ‘line’ would be with friends who appear to turn a bind eye to the unborn. I want to get right up in their faces (FB or otherwise) and shake them hard awake. Can’t they see the evil in sacrificing the innocent; destroying the divine; desecrating the image of God in both mother and child? How can we, both of us Christians, be so far apart on this issue and continue to remain friends? I very much want to not be their friend until we can agree on this foundational truth: Violently removing a baby from the sacred womb of his mother is a great evil before God.
And then the Holy Spirit reminds me of this other reality: As soon as I begin lumping “them” into “those people who won’t renounce evil”, and “those people who turn a blind eye to obvious evil,” and “those people who support the oppression of the innocent,” I start believing the enemy’s lie that “those people are especially vile (but you are not)” and “those people have no good in them at all, (but you are full of righteousness).”
And where do hateful, evil, horrible people who have no ounce of good in them belong? Hell. What do awful and morally repugnant people deserve? Not a shred of mercy. “Those people” deserve collective condemnation, wrath, and disgrace. “They” deserve to be cast out as far away from me and society (and God) as possible. I also am not trying to be overly dramatic, here. But you can see where this goes.
You and I are not wishing our friends to hell, obviously. We most earnestly desire that they would open their eyes and begin to see things the way we see them, and as we believe God sees them. But could there be a better way to deal with the “those people” who God has brought, on purpose, into our lives? Could it be the way of forgiveness? Goodness? Of divine lovingkindness?
Is it possible to combat systemic racism, profound injustice, entrenched hatred, and violent oppression – not with hard lines in the sand – but with something as simple, and difficult, as divine mercy?
The last thing Jesus Christ said in his life was, “Forgive them, father, for they don’t know what they do.” Christ forgave and blessed (BLESSED!) those whose were inflicting horrible, hate-filled, and violent evil upon the most undeserving person in history. And the Bible suggests that had we been in the crowd, we would have called out “Crucify him!” just like the rest of the mob. We would have been one of the mockers or scoffers. Or, equally as shameful, we would have run away and hid ourselves as all his disciples did. And if we think we would never have done so, we are the sorriest of liars.
Abandoned, alone, and enduring horrific abuse, the innocent Son of God was still was able to see his tormentors and betrayers with compassion and without hate in his heart. He was sinless to the end. And so as a follower of this Jesus – whether I like it or not – I must also forgive those who don’t know fully what they do. And I must do this whether they desire my forgiveness or not.
Unlike Jesus, however, we are hardly spotless and innocent. We also don’t enjoy God’s divine omniscience, and are unable to see into the mysterious depths of the human heart, much as we’d like. And so we must first; rigorously and with God’s help, examine what resides in our own hearts before assuming to know the motives of another soul – especially from what we glean about their soul on social media.
Who then do I see as “they”? To whom do I feel superior? Where am I “spitting on others” in my own heart? Of whom do I think the world would be a better place if they weren’t in it? These are good first questions to ask before deciding to draw any line.
My point is that we need God’s divine light to see what crouches in the crevices of our own hearts FIRST. We need God’s word, his perspective, and the help of the Holy Spirit to do this difficult soul work, because it is not a natural thing that anyone prefers to do! The natural way – the human way – is to justify our own motives and be greatly offended by those who continue to sin against use. Easy peasy.
And then, after the hard work of seeing and repenting of our own pride, we need to ask for even more grace to discern how best to engage with our brothers, sisters, friends, and other human beings whose behavior and beliefs we may still deeply abhor. This is so difficult – but I’ve found it helpful to use language like “us,” and “we,” and “help me understand,” and “I forgive you, (even though you didn’t repent or ask for my forgiveness)” as I strenuously trust God to give me his words, his ears, and his point of view.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t exercise good judgement, of course. As Christ followers we are called to discern good and evil; exercise self-control; stand firm in the faith; be courageous and persevere; test every spirit; defend the weak and vulnerable; speak truthfully; give generously; refuse to show the slightest partiality; and overcome every evil with good.
We are called to be just, as our God hates injustice. We are called to hate evil, as our God loves and is jealous of all that he has made. We are called to be holy, as our God is holy.
And this call is one that requires an active response with our bodies. We get up and follow our Lord down into the dark and ugly basements of this world. We go with Jesus to bring people in bondage out into his life and light. He calls and we follow. He speaks and we listen. We pick up our mat and follow him to those still lie in wait for his healing.
Christ forgives and we are called to also forgive those who sin against us. And so, in my opinion, we are not to draw hard lines in the sand. But we are to pray for God’s help, his words, his light, and his healing for the suffering world.
Worry less about the others. What is he asking of YOU today? Now go follow him there.
Peace to you and yours because you are the daughter and heir of a good King whose property is always to have mercy and give aid. He will help you, generously, if you ask.