Monday, September 14, 2020

To engage or not to engage; that is the question.

If you find yourself sighing, shaking your head or rolling your eyes about things people are saying and the way some people are behaving, you’re not alone. We seem to be in a very divisive time. You may be at odds with your neighbors, co-workers, family, the people on your social media feed or even the people you see in the news.


This can prompt a modified version of ‘fight or flight’ in us. You may feel compelled to engage in the debate or do the opposite and simply bury your head in the sand in avoidance. I know I have experienced both extremes. One moment, I’m ready to respond strongly to that dumb post or write a letter to a network television host (I know how silly that sounds now). The next moment, I’m ready to completely walk away from all the medias.


Don’t do either. Now, more than ever, we need mature, Christ-following individuals to stand strong and model grace and respect despite our differences. We might need to first get our emotions in check and our heads in a good place before we do, but we cannot stand idly by and not contribute to the important issues of our day.


We need to do what Jesus did when dealing with difficult people. He never let people fluster Him. He asked lots of questions which allowed people to feel heard and also added insight to the conversation. And, most importantly, He knew when to silently walk away.


In Luke 4:28-30 in the Bible, we read of a time when Jesus was in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. After He amazes the crowd with His knowledge of Scripture, He proceeds to anger them with something He says. It says, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.”


This is a very tricky and divisive situation with strong disagreements taking place. What does Jesus do? Does he argue and shout and become emotional? No. the Bible says, “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”


Instead of flying off the handle, all self-righteous and superior, we need to learn how to engage in disagreements with patience and respect and know when to be quiet and simply walk away (or scroll on by). This is called discernment.


Discernment is sensitive judgment and understanding. Spiritual discernment is when God guides us to the best decisions. We all could use more of that! Romans 12:2 puts it this way, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.”


We can ask God for discernment - in our daily prayers or in the heat of the moment. We may need to take a deep breath and ask God how He would like us to handle our current conversation or situation.


Jesus’ brother, James taught, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” -James 4:17-18


Stay engaged, but do so in the way Jesus engaged: in a mature, respectful and peaceful manner. You may even bring about some righteousness in the process.


Sylvia Gaston

Pastor of Connection and Development

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