I made the mistake of commenting about the presidential candidates on Facebook. I should have known better, but I couldn’t resist voicing my confusion about how to vote this time around. About a nanosecond after I publicized the post, the comments began to fly. My atheist friend commented, my conservative Christian friend commented, my socialist European friend commented, and a war of words ensued.
“What do I do now?” I panicked. Even if I delete the post, the damage has been done, the comments have been made, and the potential for hurt is huge. A volcano of anger has just erupted, and there is a public record of it. As I was fretting about how to handle the situation (as well as beating myself up for indirectly causing it), I sensed God telling me to write a private message to each person involved.
I told my atheist friend how sorry I was that other friends of mine did not respect her view or treat her with dignity. I asked her about her view and if she could explain it to me. I told her that I was really interested to hear what things were like from her perspective, and I wanted to have a dialogue with her from a place of honest curiosity.
I wrote similar letters to the others, but the one to my atheist friend stands out the most because her reply shocked me:
“Annie, I know that you are a Christian, and I respect your right to have your beliefs. You also know that I am an atheist, but you have always treated me with respect. You are the only Christian who has ever asked me what life is like from my perspective, and the only Christian who treated me with any sort of dignity, without having an agenda to proselytize. Your love for me makes me want to be a Christian.”
I was speechless. I didn’t feel like I had done anything unusual; in fact, I was trying to undo my social media blunder! But something touched her deep down.
There is a story in the Bible about a man named Saul who hated Christians and wanted to kill them. After an encounter with God on the road to Damascus (on his way to kill more Christians), he was left unable to see and taken to a house where he lay in darkness for three days. God spoke to another man, Ananias, and told him to go to Saul and heal him. Ananias protested, saying something to the effect of, “Are you sure have the right guy, Lord? This man is bad news! And he has legal authority to kill me and all the Christians here in Damascus.” God convinced Ananias to go, and here is where the story gets really interesting.
Now if it were me (assuming I had the courage to obey God), I would go to Saul with an alias, an alibi, and an army of ninjas. But not Ananias. He walks up to Saul, places his hands on him, and says, “Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me to you.” Brother Saul?
But that’s the key, isn’t it? No one I know was ever debated or argued into the Kingdom of God. No one was ever judged or criticized into the Kingdom of God. They were loved. Every single one of them—and us—were brought into God’s family through love, because it is love which transforms a broken world, not hate. Our need to be right and to defend that at all costs does not bring people closer to Jesus; love for them does.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Reflect and Respond
What are the issues or beliefs that can draw you into debate, argument, or criticism of others?
Who might God be calling you to label “brother” and not enemy?
What is one concrete way you can respond to people around you (on social media or in real life) with love and honor, even when you disagree?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Annie Erickson and her husband, Dan, live in Pretoria, South Africa with their three children. They are a part of CRM's Ethne collective and minister to churches and church leaders in the region.