Saturday, September 8, 2018

Leaning In

by Candace Cortez

It is with much trepidation that I write this post. I feel the need to give a list of qualifications or disclaimers explaining how I’m “allowed” to write this. Some of my credentials include that fact that I’m a Navy Brat and love my country or have been a fan of football for years (go Niners!), my husband is in law enforcement, and I’m bi-racial: half African American and half Caucasian. But none of those things matter or qualify this article as much as I love and believe in Jesus and I am trying my best to love people. 

Here’s the setup. A recent ad campaign has re-sparked the controversy surrounding kneeling or not kneeling during the national anthem at the beginning of football games. You may have seen some responses to this on some media platform. I have a pretty eclectic group in my social media and therefore whenever there is a polarized issue, I almost always read both ends of the spectrum. Some people are mad. This anger is leading to calls for boycotts.

There are many things I choose not to purchase, because I do not agree with certain aspects of that company or organization.  I know that I am probably unknowingly supporting one company that participates in the same or similar practices as another I am refraining from, but I believe that my acquired knowledge informs a level of my responsibility. I am not off the hook just because I didn’t know, and once I know certain things, I have to choose how to respond. Above all, I try my best to not puff up my understanding of my own morality because of the products or organizations I choose to endorse or not. I have felt the automatic categorization that happens in my heart when I have chosen to boycott, and others have decided to partake. It is an easy jump to assume that they are either ignorant, or not as just, or loving, or whatever as I am. This, my friends, is dangerous ground.

It is a powerful thing to belong to a group. To experience the feeling of identity and comradery from a community that shares something in common. This is one of the beautiful blessings of the church. We are one Bride, one Body because we serve and love one God. It is an easy thing to love, trust, and forgive the people in our group. We can more easily understand or guess their motives (or so we think) and therefore even their wrong choices are not as wrong as say, a person who we would place in a different group. They are not as familiar because we don’t share an obvious reason to unite, therefore it is easier to withhold love, trust, or forgiveness of wrongs. For example, being a working mom puts me in a group of women whom I can more easily understand than say, working dads, or even stay at home moms. The challenge is this: just because it’s not as easy to understand someone, doesn’t mean I don’t have to try.

Before we respond or identify ourselves with new polarized sides, I would ask that we wait, and respond like we think Jesus would. When we look at how Jesus handled controversy or a problem, and He did a lot, we do not often see Him becoming outraged unless He was addressing the religious elite (this alone should cause us to pause!) One of Jesus most common methods of processing a controversial moment was to ask a good question. When asked how one is to inherit eternal life, Jesus responded with the question “What is written in the law?” Luke 10:26. In other words, He’s asking, what does scripture say about this topic? When Jesus was with the disciples in the boat in the middle of a storm, He asked them “why are you so afraid?” Matt. 8:26. When Jesus was going to approach a woman who by all current social norms would suggest He should ignore, He asked: “will you give me a drink?”  John 4:7.

As Christians, we should choose wisely the way we steward our influence and ask better questions. Not every cause deserves an immediate gut reaction. Sometimes, our gut is wrong. Sometimes our heart can be misled by media, popularity, past experiences, family or cultural allegiances, etc. I believe there are some questions that Jesus asked that we could ask today. Maybe we need to ask ourselves, what does scripture say about these issues? Maybe we need to ask ourselves in our moment of outrage, why am I so afraid, angry or emotionally affected? Maybe we need to ask someone else, especially someone who is not in our group, if they would like to eat over, or if we could go into their comfort zone, and keep asking questions. Boycotting means to withdraw from something. I am not against boycotting, but I am against boycotting keeping us from moving toward people. Let’s give more grace. Let’s increase connection. Let’s lean in.

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