Everywhere I turn these days I’m inundated with facebook memes, profile pics, news articles and blogs that are of either the persuasion that gay marriage should be legal or that it shouldn’t. While there are some great voices being heard in this discussion for the most part what I’ve been sensing is that ultimately what most of us are doing is just talking over each other. We’re coming to the table to be heard, not to listen. We’re coming to the discussion ready and armed to prove that we’re right rather than willing to hear all of the reasons why someone who differs from us might have right on their side as well.
We’re coming and sitting down at this table and forgetting the most important thing…grace.
We’ve got notes and research and opinions and documents and studies and surveys and we sit down to have a conversation about this and everything comes out wrong, everything tastes horrible, nothing is received well. Why? We forgot to season our words with grace. Not just our words. Our tone, our attitude.
I’m trying to understand where people are coming from on both sides. But if I’m being honest, I’m getting sick of it. From both sides.
There are people (gay and straight) who believe that gay marriage should be legal who love Jesus. (gasp!)
There are people (gay and straight) who believe that the definition of marriage should not change who are most definitely not homophobic bigots. (no way!)
I came across a well meaning blogger a while back who posted a you tube video of a young girl doing her best attempt at some spoken word poetry rap. She was talking about traditional marriage, sexuality and tolerance. This blogger posted her video to basically make fun of her and her stance. And then a whole bunch of Christians and non-Christians alike rallied to judge her purpose and call her everything from bigot, to hateful, to even comparing her to the Westboro Baptist Church extremists. I’m sorry, what?
I couldn’t take it anymore. I called these people out on their words. Their judgment. Their graceless attitude toward a young women they didn’t even know. There was nothing “hateful” about what she said. She, like everyone else, regardless of what side you are on, has the right to their opinion. You don’t combat intolerance with intolerance. You don’t combat hate with hate. And yet that is what so many of us are doing.
My plea was to them what it is to you…
We don’t win anyone over by stooping low, by throwing dirt, by digging our heels in, by being the one with the loudest opinion.
Let’s stop throwing around names. Name calling just halts healthy conversation.
Let’s stop judging peoples motives. Especially when we don’t even know someone personally.
Let’s stop assuming we know where someone’s heart is at with God because of how they feel about one single issue.
I love what Max Lucado says on this issue of grace. We tend to cluster and debate “we” versus “them” when what God wants us to do is unify (John 10:16). He wants us to love (Matt. 22:36-40). He wants us to accept (Mark 9:37).
Stop building fences. Stop creating sides. Stop drawing a line in the sand. Stop making one issue the measure of whether someone is in or out.
Let’s allow people to just “be” where they are at. And give people room to process things. Give people room to be and do and think differently than we do.
People develop the beliefs and ideas that they have because of many different things. One of my favorite quotes by Linda Ellinor says, “What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.”
We all need to remember this. We are all influenced by our upbringing, our experiences, our perceptions, our feelings, the beliefs we were taught when we were young. All of this and more affect how we see and interpret things.
Often when we come to the table on so-called big ticket items, socially, politically, relationally, we come believing that “we” are the ones in the right. That “we” are the ones who have cornered the market on The Truth. Could it be that we haven’t? Could it be that we also are experiencing and perceiving and interpreting things in ways that could be wrong because of that? Could someone who differs from us actually have a valid point?
You don’t know how someone has come to the beliefs that they have. You don’t know why someone feels so strongly about something. You don’t know how much time, effort, study or prayer someone has put into their beliefs.
Wouldn’t we want someone to be gracious to us while we work out those things in our own heart and mind? Don’t the people we are in relationship with deserve the same from us?
We should be doing this in all relationships. Not just on social media sites to the faceless voices in the comment sections on the blogs that are raising our blood pressure.
We should be giving grace to the cranky grocery store clerk. We don’t know what her home life is like, how long she’s been working her shift, what is on her mind while she’s working.
We should be giving grace to our spouse’s. We don’t know everything that happened in their day. The stressors that compounded that caused them to blow up when they got home. We don’t always know or understand why they think the plates need to go in the dishwasher a certain way.
We should be giving grace to our children. We don’t always know how they are feeling. If may be they are acting out because they are tired or stressed or scared or hungry or constipated. We don’t know!
We like to think we know. Especially with the people closest to us. But we don’t always. Everyone has a story. And the less you know someone, the less understanding you have of when and how and why they came to the conclusions in life that they did.
So, let’s apply some grace.
It’s the balm that will heal this ever -growing chasm developing between the two sides on this issue.
I’m convinced it’s the only thing that will make it possible for us to get to a place, as Christians, as human beings, where there are no longer any “sides.”
Next time you sit down on your side of the table, make sure you come ready to listen.
Make sure you come ready to be wrong.
Make sure you come ready with a large dose of grace.
You’ll have an easier time getting your words heard and more importantly you’ll have an easier time listening to whatever the other person is saying. No matter how it differs from you.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:6).