When we began homeschooling twelve years ago, many people in the homeschooling community considered themselves to be conservative Christians. To be fair, they still consider themselves conservative Christians, but that’s not my point. I wanted to fit in back then so that’s how I identified myself. Even though we weren’t in a church, we still considered ourselves as Christians so I didn’t think anything of it. I complained about the same things they did. I got exasperated with the things going on in my country. And I generally thought of people on the other “side” as not worthy of my time. I’m ashamed to admit that now, but I was sitting in judgment of people like people had sat in judgment of me many years earlier when we had left the church. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. Jesus didn’t want me to do that and He still doesn’t want me to do that.
What started changing my mindset in another direction? Life happened to us. Bad things started happening to us. Things that were impossible to conceal behind a facade. It was impossible to sit in judgment of someone I thought might be cheating the welfare system when my own husband couldn’t find a job. It was impossible to sit in judgment of someone coming to my country illegally when there was a possibility we would become homeless. I couldn’t do it. God was changing my heart to beat in tune with His. Now, I do need to add that some of the people I had come to know helped us in any way they could, but, in the general community, I was still seeing some of the same judgmental attitudes.
Anyway, my heart has continued to change over the past six years as my country has become even more sharply divided. Everything I see in the media depicts one side as being totally right and the other as being villainous. It goes both ways too. There is not a side that gets a pass as to how they treat people on the other side. That’s why I’ve pretty much stopped participating in political discussions. God doesn’t want me treating other people like they’re horrible just because their opinion is different from mine.
In general, we are unable to listen to other people with different opinions. We sharpen our knives to make sure we make our point not caring who we hurt. But, we’re still afraid, afraid of being judged for our faith, for our race, for our gender, for anything that makes us different. Christians participate too which is the saddest thing of all because I don’t think this is what God wants from us.
So, what does God want from us? He has the solution though we often refuse to see it. First, Romans 13:1 offers us guidance. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” We’re subject to our governments no matter how much we might dislike them.
Second, He offers us opportunities to meet people who are different from us. We need to take those opportunities because God uses them to change hearts as He has done mine. The more familiar we are with differences, the less scary they are, and that builds in us a willingness to help. God has challenged my comfort zone in the last six years and is continuing to challenge it in the midst of figuring out my own differences from other people.
Finally, God wants us to be willing to change our mindset. I think that might be the hardest thing of all, but we all need to steep this in prayer as we are seeking to become the people God wants us to be. Just because one person cheats the welfare system doesn’t mean all people do. Just because one person expresses racist thoughts doesn’t mean all people are racist. In the midst of our differences, there is one way we are the same. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace.
As I look back over what I wrote, the author’s words from today’s devotion come to mind clearly, and I know it’s what God wants from me as I consider my country. She says, “Being brave looks like prayer. It looks like praying for your leaders to come to Christ. It looks like loving the people in your country and sticking to your biblical values.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I know it was implied in the quote, but I feel the need to add “all” to these words. Until we can love everyone like God wants us to love them (despite our differences), we won’t have the unity as believers God wants us to have.
Praying today that all our hearts can be more like His!