In 2008 I was asked to teach Art to elementary age students. Up until that time I had taught primarily middle and high school aged youth at a private Christian school in Maryland. The need arose and I accepted the challenge. How hard can it be?
It was hard. Very, very hard.
The curriculum was easy. Teaching tiny hands to manipulate paint, clay and chalk was fun. Dealing with the lack of maturity I was accustomed to was the most difficult by far.
Children of a young age have tender hearts and tender feelings. Thus they were easily offended, and I constantly fielded complaints like:
- “He looked at me!”
- “She said she doesn’t like blue!”
- “He called me a name!”
- “She said she’s not my friend anymore!”
- “He won’t draw what I told him to draw!”
While many of these outcries can be chalked up to kids being kids, they also provided many a teachable moment. I found myself teaching lessons on tolerance, accepting the opinion of others, and love alongside lessons on fingerpaints and pastels.
America: A Nation of Five-Year-Olds
As the past few weeks of cultural shift have exploded on social media I have noticed something very familiar. Facebook and Twitter have turned into that art classroom filled with children. People are offended over every little thing, from what flag you can fly to what church you attend. Tempers run anywhere from mild irritation to full-blown vitriol. Words are twisted out of context, and then the name dropping begins. You know what names I mean.
Like a whiny kindergartener who just got looked at by a girl, America has forgotten how to deal with people of differing beliefs and values. And I wish I could say that the Church was above it all. But we’re not. Not by a long shot.
Unfortunately, you will find many Christians being just as offended as everyone else. The pious in America are complaining just as much as the unpious.
- “What about my rights?”
- “I thought we were a ‘Christian’ nation!”
- “This is persecution!”
Between the name calling and the constant complaining I have avoided comment threads like the plague. The cacophony is enough to drown out any words of reason, no matter how tactfully they are written.
A Message for the Church in America
So what’s my advice to the Church in America? It can be summed up in two words:
We have enjoyed a privileged position of influence for so long in this nation we have forgotten how to operate from a position of little influence. Using the immature tactics of complaining and shouting down your opponent will only yield childish results. We will only attract those who already agree with us and alienate everyone who doesn’t, which runs counter to our mission to seek and save the lost.
Imagine if Christians responded with maturity.
- Instead of name-calling, we love our neighbor, regardless of his beliefs.
- Instead of complaining, we praise God for all the blessings we still enjoy as Americans.
- Instead of a message of doom and judgment, we offer a message of grace and hope.
- Instead of shouting down our “opponent”, we actually listened to understand what they are saying.
And what if we did the most radical of all? What if when some choose to reject us/hate us/persecute us (and I mean real persecution, like what’s happening in Syria), what if we forgave and loved them anyway?
What if we showed the same radical love and forgiveness that Christ showed at the cross? Jesus had every right violated, was illegally tried, and unjustly executed. Yet He still chose to say, “Father, forgive them.”
And just in case you want to try to play that off as, “Well, He’s God, I’m not. You can’t expect the same of me.” Let me remind you of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:5-8:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- Will this draw people closer to Jesus or push them away?
- Is this comment full of grace AND truth?
- Does this convey the heart and mind of Christ?
Church, it’s time to lead by example. It’s time to let our actions speak. It’s time to choose not to respond to every insult. It’s time to love.
It’s time to grow up.