America is a country divided. We are divided on the issue of abortion, on the issue of homosexual marriage, on the issue of Israel’s right to defend itself (even my choice of words on the subject is controversial), on the issue of racial tension in Ferguson, on whatever issue of the week that has nothing to do with politics but, for some unknowable reason, has become a political issue on the Internet and the 24/7 news networks this week.
Consider: A young man was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The country should be united in mourning for the family’s loss and for the police officer who is dealing with the fact that he took a life. We should be united in a desire for justice: If the police officer wrongly fired his weapon, justice demands he go to jail. If the police officer justifiably defended himself, he should be exonerated and allowed back on the police force if he desires.
Consider: Millions of people are suffering from the often-debilitating disease of depression. Some people with depression have killed themselves, the most recent and public of them being Robin Williams. Rather than mourning with his family and offering grace to them in a time of grief, America debated whether suicide is a selfish act or the natural result of a mental illness.
Consider: Innocent children and teachers were hurt and killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School. Again, rather than grieving with the families, we turned it into a national debate about gun control, or the lack thereof.
Why do we do this?
Because we want answers. We want justice. We want to know what we can do to stop these things from ever happening again.
I believe it is that last desire that causes division. We seem incapable of finding any compromise or middle ground. And as long as we continue to see through the paradigm of “us versus them,” this will never change.
In Ferguson, the argument has become: The cop should be killed versus Officer Wilson lawfully defended himself.
In depression, the argument has become: Robin Williams was selfish for killing himself versus People dealing with depression don’t have a choice and we shouldn’t judge.
In Sand Hook, the argument has become: We should get rid of all the guns versus We should make everyone carry a gun.
Do any of those arguments represent how you feel about any of those issues? Of course not. They are all straw-man arguments. Your thoughts are more nuanced and developed. Perhaps the way we find middle ground and become a less divided nation is to take time to look beyond the simple arguments of the “other side” or the particular narrative we follow and take time to listen, examine and understand what those we disagree with believe before lashing out in the comments sections of Twitter and Facebook News Feeds. Perhaps we take a minute to “value others above [ourselves]” (Philippians 2:3).
Maybe this won’t change anything. Maybe America will stay divided. Maybe the other side won’t give your side the same respect. But Jesus never said to love others only if they love you first or only if they will reciprocate your respect. In fact, He didn’t add any qualifiers to His command. Instead, He commanded us to love and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48).