What grace do we give to other people?
What grace do we give them, especially when they think differently?
Have we — maybe just you, maybe just me, maybe only the likeminded — have we cornered the market on wisdom?
I read a fascinating editorial this week, written by an online news contributor who consistently advocates for solely one side of the political aisle. I admire her eloquence. I admire the respect in her tone. I also admire her passion and compassion. She was sweetly advocating for loving our neighbor well.
As a person for whom loving our neighbor well is one of my top two priorities in life, I still found myself pausing at one point, troubled by her conclusion. To those who disagree with her chosen political approach, she wrote the following:
“There is a divide between our worldviews that can never be bridged… our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters… I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings.”
If one does not believe what the author believes, the author has concluded that the other person does not care about “what happens to their fellow human beings.”
The author has convinced herself that the other so-called side doesn’t care as much about other people as she does; she has found fault in their thinking. Finding fault only in another’s thinking, she no longer needs to wrestle with any fault in her own. She also then fails to wrestle with any validity in the opinion of another. While perhaps unknowingly done, that seems potentially judgmental and lacking in grace.
I wish we did a better job as a society of recognizing that we don’t know how each of us cares for other people. We don’t know how each of us uses our time, talents, and money as a means of loving God and our neighbor well… however perceived little or much time, talent, and money we’ve been given… how do we each use it well?
Who among us supports the building of an orphanage in Romania? … who among us gives annually to the Down Syndrome Association? … who among us uses our vacation to build a water system in Kenya, where there is no clean water for a remote, unpublicized village? And who among us volunteers for Hospice, visits a prisoner, or personally packs backpacks of food for the homeless?
And if others don’t do what we do, does that mean that they don’t care? … does that mean that only the person who gives their time, talents, or money is caring? … only they are empathetic? … that only the giver of that particular time, talent, or money — or holder of a specific political approach — loves their neighbor well?
We don’t know what each other does. Isn’t it therefore possible that we care for others differently but still well?
There’s no need to compare what we each do; there’s also no need to judge. Judgment is merely another form of comparison. Judgment also too often justifies the ending of respectful dialogue. I was sadly struck, in fact, how this editorial’s author added that she’s “done trying to convince these hordes of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.”
… hordes of selfish people … cruel…
Is that us? … because we care differently?
My point is that while I appreciate the compassion behind various approaches — from government paying for healthcare to wanting government to be solvent to building that orphanage in Romania — it’s inaccurate to assume that a different approach equates to caring lesser. It’s inaccurate to assume that only those who want to give their time, talents, and money as we do, are empathetic. And to then suggest that there’s no need to talk to another any more… well, that seems to say more about a person’s impatience and unwillingness to listen than it says about the holder of a seemingly opposite approach. It’s not just a singular set of people that need to “look beyond themselves.”
I’m reminded of an incredible book I read years ago, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. In it, Yancey shares tale after tale of generous grace offerings, extensions of practical love that are so much broader and extensive than I have ever done, much less even considered. Each instance was an intentional choice of grace over judgment, when truthfully, judgment is most always the easier path.
Seeing how hard it is for us to give grace to one another consistently — especially to those holding varied opinion — grace is amazing indeed.