My friend Kristi Atkinson once wrote an article offering “Five Prompts for Praying the News.” In that article, the first prompt Kristi suggested, when engaging with news that elicits a strong reaction, is to offer our reaction to God. In other words, when we read or hear a story on the news that stirs up anger or sadness or grief or righteous indignation, instead of rushing to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Kristi suggests we go to God first.
Recent current events have opened the door to many different and significant conversations. In many cases, these conversations are long overdue and extremely important. Conversations about subjects like racism, sexual identity, the welfare and protection of children, symbolism, and systems—not to mention politics!—require thoughtful deliberation and large doses of grace. However, these kinds of topics often ignite strong opinions and emotions. Differences of opinion surface, even among those in the body of Christ.
Often, the result of many of these discussions—both online and face-to-face—is polarization, defensiveness, and resentment. Before long, we’ve built up walls between “us and them” and between “us and God vs. them.”
The article Kristi wrote draws us away from this type of divisiveness by calling us first to God. There, in the presence of God, we confess our confusion and fear and disappointment and sadness. In turn, he reminds us our struggle is not against flesh and blood. As Paul shared in his letter to the Ephesians, our sisters and brothers are not our enemies, even when we disagree on tough topics.
The truth is that our enemy is the one who seeks to keep us separated—from one another in our flesh and blood and from God for eternity. Even when people take horrendous action or speak words that cause deep pain and disappointment, we are called to love them and to pray for them.
To be sure, there is a place for thoughtful dialogue and prayerful discernment when faced with difficult events in our world, and changes in our culture. As followers of Jesus Christ, however, our focus should be on partnering with the spirit of God to push back the darkness and make way for the kingdom of God. We are in this together—for God and for all the people of the world.
When we forget the true source of our struggle and focus instead on flesh and blood divisions, the true enemy is content to fly beneath the proverbial radar.
Let’s remember where the real battle is waged. Let’s seek something more than pointless arguments, name-calling, finger-pointing, and side-taking. Let’s go first to God with our reactions, and then move forward in the peace of knowing these two things: the victory has been won, and we are stronger together.
Some questions for you: How have you been feeling lately about the state of the world? What does it mean to you to partner with God in making way for his kingdom? How important is it to you to be right?
Such a good word, and much needed!
That piece Kristi wrote last year has really stuck with me. It’s one of my favorite articles from my time at the High Calling. It’s practical, and it makes space for thinking more deeply about these issues from a position of faith, peace, and trust.
You are so wise. And I love you. That’s all.
We were reminded by our pastor this week that as followers of Christ we do not have the freedom to believe anything we want or act in any old way we want. So often our first response to issues is out of our flesh, rather than from a position of grace, our position in Christ. Good stuff, Deidra, thank you for sharing.
Dolly @ Soulstops.com
Yes, Amen…Thank you, Deidra 🙂
This is such a good word, Deidra. I totally agree with Shelly-“so wise”. You have hit the nail on the head. I don’t know many friends and family in these days who don’t have a rise in emotions after watching the daily news. At one time, I decided I needed to cut back on the negativity coming into my house on a daily basis. The news station I now watch always tries to include a tale of personal triumph or bravery or just something cute & heartwarming, which I’m ready for after hearing all the bad news. I’d even gotten to the point where I didn’t want to hear any morning news broadcasts, for fear of what might have happened “somewhere else” in the world overnight. These are perilous times we are in. But I take your point to heart…taking all my emotions over these bad things to God first, spilling all to Him. And reminding myself that He’s still on the throne, He sees all, and He’s still in control. “Fear not, fear not, fear not.”
I so very much agree with you that the enemy is how we become polarized from each other. Words like bigot, racist, used as labels towards people like Trump’s followers trouble me and shut down the conversation. How can we change someone’s mind if we’re already calling them names and dismissing their perspective?