Here we are, America. It’s been less than one month since we got a new president. For many, Facebook has become a place we visit with fear of what our friends and family might say about their approval or disapproval of President Trump’s first few weeks in office. But the truth is, it’s time to take a deep breath. It’s time to remember that the same people you are avoiding today are the same people you were having barbecues with this past summer, making friendly small talk with at back to school night or inviting over for dinner just weeks ago.
Over the past three election cycles I have turned one of the three FM radio station sets in my car into “news central.” I rotate between NPR, WTOP, WMAL, WHUR and 99.1 Bloomberg to try and hear the actual facts that lie buried in each station’s spin on a story. It is a fascinating learning experience, and I encourage you to try it some time. What I’ve discovered is that very few facts are reported on a regular basis. Instead, reporters and radio hosts share their emphatic perspectives on a single action without providing any real insight into why those on each side of an issue are so irrationally upset. Even a show’s callers support the craze of that view, with very few exceptions where the host welcomes callers with other opinions.
I have close friends on both sides of many of today’s issues. Friends have said things to me that still sting at my very core months later, and friends continue to surprise me by spreading venom against one view or the other. It all leaves me feeling a bit hopeless really, because I believe that most of us actually share many of the same core views about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that most of us love our country and want to see it continue to thrive and unite. But we have somehow become accustomed to taking sides instead of choosing to have discussions to seek greater understanding. So I’ve realized that I have some forgiveness to do. I need to forgive those that have said things that hurt me because of perceived differences in our belief systems. And I need to ask for forgiveness to anyone that I may have offended.
When I feel hopeless, I seek wisdom in scripture. In Luke 17:1, Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.” And later, in verse three he says, “So watch yourselves.” That phrase, “so watch yourselves,” really caught me off guard. It doesn’t exactly sound like a phrase you might hear 2,000 years ago. It sounds like something you might have heard your mom say when you were a teenager. But like a caring parent, Jesus tells us not to push our own earthly desires so hard onto others that it causes them to stumble. I think the stumbling that we are to watch for refers to something that makes one waver from God’s desires for our lives. The problem here, of course, is that not everyone knows what God desires of us. But during these times of quick emotional reactions, in person, on email and in Facebook, the advice is clear and simple: “So watch yourselves.”
My favorite chapter in the Bible is Psalm 51, and in verse 10, it says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” So join me in trying to avoid causing anyone to stumble, in watching ourselves and in cleansing our hearts in humility and forgiveness. By doing so, we can all turn back to our God as our Lord and Savior and not the latest protests or administration.