I’ve slowed down on posting lately. I’ve taken a step back from social media and public opinion so I could focus on the Lord and His next steps for our family. Despite whether I’ve been writing the past couple of weeks or not, though, my inbox has kept steady with communication from strangers who have come across my writing. This has always been the case, and for the most part, I receive lovely encouragement from others. Sometimes I do not. Lately I’ve gotten more ALL-CAPS angry emails than usual, and it hasn’t surprised me a bit considering the state of our country presently. It’s the main reason I took a social media hiatus, but that doesn’t stop my ‘contact me’ box from remaining open.
This past week I received an email from a stranger who had stumbled across a blog post I wrote back in early June 2020 questioning how Jesus might perceive the phrase Black Lives Matter. I could recall it being a well-received post from the people close to me who knew my heart, but as the article swept across the Nation it received mixed reviews. Or perhaps it’s just the angriest voices that speak the loudest. Regardless, the email I received from a man I did not know in reference to this post started by calling me a “daughter of Satan.”
I could go on with the remainder of the insults therein. I could even post it here with his name, but that would be me retaliating for my offense, and that’s not actually what I’m doing here. I don’t take offense. It only makes me sad. Sad that someone who doesn’t even know me took the time to follow a few links to my webpage, contact form, and pen a rage-filled paragraph for me. I guess you could say I’m getting pretty used to it, though. The night before I was labeled by another stranger a “heretic” and guilty of “leading people astray.” I think I’ve had my salvation questioned more in the past few months than ever in my life. But let’s get to the point, shall we.
Let’s put Facebook posts and blog articles aside. I mean, everyone has opinions, and anyone is free to start their own webpage and proclaim them. But, it’s like my husband has told me numerous times, you’ll never influence people with words you share on the internet as much as you will by the life you lead each day. And this was certainly true. I have come to realize this year that opinions will change as we grow. I mean, when I was looking for the link to the recent article I shared for BLM, I found another I had written in 2016. It was very different. In fact, I think the gentleman who called me a child of Satan probably would have applauded my previous work, but that is neither here or there. My point is, opinions change, people change. Who you vote for in one election may alter drastically in later years, but it’s not our politics that impact the lives around us for Jesus. It’s how we live each day.
My last day of work at the hospital I’ve been at in Orlando, I sat with the most adorable nursing assistant ever. I love her, and she makes me laugh out loud, literally, with her amazing sense of humor. She’s a great tech, and I enjoyed working with her. As we spoke about my upcoming move I brought up the subject of racial injustice. It was a topic newer to me, but one the Lord had really stoked in my spirit this year. Once I opened up the dialogue, and knowing my heart like she did, she began to release her emotions freely. She cried while she expressed her fears to me for her nineteen-year-old son. She shared personal stories of his interaction with law enforcement, and she recounted a situation of when he didn’t come home at curfew, and her and her mom got frantic with the worry he had been pulled over and shot. She talked about how happy she was that he loved to play video/computer games because it kept him mostly in his room, where she could be certain he was safe.
I couldn’t understand her feelings here. I mean, I wanted to. I sympathized with her concerns as a mother, but I couldn’t fully empathize with her plight. I didn’t have to. I was the mother of four, white daughters. So what I did instead was listen as she spilled her emotions. Then I told her, “I can’t even begin to imagine how this feels, but I can tell you this. This isn’t right. You should not have to feel this way! I love you, and I stand by you in this fight.”
The thing is, I had been working alongside this woman for two years. She knew I was a Christian. She heard me listen to worship music while I charted, but she also knew I loved Jesus by my actions. She saw it in the way I treated my patients for years, but now, on my last day, I made it apparent to her that I loved her like Jesus would have me to. I saw her, and I held her concerns of value. I loved her just by listening. I loved her by offering my support.
I think that too often in this life we complicate things that are really quite simple. Like the Pharisees in the day of Jesus we focus on things that perhaps we should not. When Jesus and His disciples walked through a field the Pharisees attacked them for picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath. They were hungry, and they took of the bounty God had given. But the religious sect focused on the law (no work, or harvesting grain on Sunday) rather than feeding the need of others. I think that today, instead of choosing to walk with Jesus in that field of wheat, we’re sitting on the sidelines checking the boxes that keep us in the category of Christian according to religion. If we can say we support the right causes, vote the right color, and call out the really big sins, then we’re good. If we can attend services on Sunday we can check the box, but we don’t have to do much beyond that. We can neglect those who need us most. We can keep our Christian friends happy, but forget that it’s the sick who need a physician the most. Those are the words of Jesus, not mine. It was His response when the church leaders of the day ridiculed Him for hanging out with the wrong crowd.
I will be transparent here and tell you that when I got that email I was hurt. What’s the best way to try and cut a lover of Jesus? By questioning their salvation, or their dedication to Him. It seems that this is how fellow believers have disagreed with me lately, by calling into question my Christianity. But do you know who has never questioned it? The lost. I have crossed paths with many people who don’t live a life dedicated to the Lord, but they never question that I do. They learn of my Christianity by the cross I wear around my neck, by the music I listen to, by the scripture I post on social media, or by the words I say. They learn of my dedication to Jesus by the way I live my life each day, by the way I treat others, respond to adversity, and most importantly, by how I love.
I read the Bible a lot. Despite some comments from others telling me I need to read my Bible, I actually do. Like, I read it for hours a day, daily. I love the Word, I crave it, and I find it gives me peace when this world seems crazy. In my study of scripture I’ve never found the parts that state a specific political affiliation is required. I’ve never seen the part where Jesus pinpointed the top three sins of all time. I’ve never found the part that tells us to ridicule those with different opinions, or those who sin differently than ourselves. I do recall something about us all falling short, and I definitely remember a time or two where He instructed us to love others like ourselves. Even to lay down our lives for a brother.
Lay down your life for a friend (John 15:13). I used to think that meant dying physically so someone else could live, much like a civilian hero or soldier on the battlefield. And perhaps it does. But I also think it means metaphorically laying down your life, like, being able to lay down what the world thinks, the reputation of man, the opinion of those besides the Father. It means hanging out with tax collectors even when the Pharisees snub their noses. It means offering healing to those that some might leave bleeding on the side of the road (shout out to the Samaritans). It means standing up for what is right, even if it’s not popular opinion. It means demanding change even as people question something that only God can know. Like your heart motives. To lay down your life means to sacrifice for others, just like Jesus modeled to us. It means to love people you’ve never met, take the punishment for something you didn’t personally do, or humble yourself, even to death, albeit death of your presumptions.
I read an excerpt from Jared Byas, Love Matters More, that said, “Somehow we’ve duped ourselves into thinking that what we believe is more important than how we believe. Perhaps it’s time to remember that love matters more than just believing in God in our heads and that love is a verb.”
I wonder what would happen if we loved as well as we disagree? What if we decided to love others as much as we love our own opinion? What if we laid down offense, laid down our lives, and simply loved instead? Could we admit we have been wrong, admit others have been wrong, or try to be better today than we were yesterday? Maybe we could even throw off the labels we wear. We could decide that it’s not Democrat or Republican, so much as listen and learn. It’s not just liberal or conservative, but kindness and kingdom-thinking. Then we could remember that leading others to Jesus is more important than standing on the right side of a political battle or internet argument. Then we could remember that it’s our fruit of the spirit that will make us known as followers of Him, and certainly not the angry words we throw to a stranger.