Welcoming those from the other side of the table

Romans 5:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We live in a world divided right now. Everything seems to be right-wing or left-wing. It’s all about what you are for, or what you are against. People want everyone to join a side. If you’re not on their side, even if you’re not on the opposite side, you must be against them. If you don’t raise your voice to defend, you are part of the problem. Silence is seen as acceptance, regardless of how you might feel.

It used to be that our world was divided by “the other side of the tracks.” Somewhere along the way we stopped accepting and welcoming people who are even slightly different from us. This tears apart families, friends, churches, and communities. It has become a great divide over just about anything. This divide is something that has weight on my mind a lot in the past year.

There’s so much division that is created on social media and just media in general. It’s hard to know what the truth is anymore. The one truth we can stand on is that Christ is the Way, the truth, and the light.

Jesus spoke out against the religious leaders the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. To the world around Jesus, He was welcoming and accepting of them right where they were. Yes, even the sinners.

Most of us skip over the black sheep in our family. Christ made a point to name them in His genealogy (see Matthew 1). Christ loved the sinners. He ministered healing and wholeness to them. He ate dinner with them. He touched them. He didn’t post on social media how wrong they were. Or tell a slanted story that favored his way of thinking. He spoke the truth in love. Always.

Somewhere along the way the world, Christians included, have forgotten this truth. Speak the truth in love. Accept others where they are. Love never fails.

I had a conversation with one of my nephews at Christmas. We sit on opposite sides of the table on many hot topic issues. I will read his opinion on things he post because I respect him. Somethings he says, I don’t agree with but I don’t feel social media is the place to discuss it. Other things he says, I can agree with wholeheartedly. I may post when I agree with what he says. I want him to know I see the validity in what he says. So when I told him that I wanted to “Pick his brain” I meant it in all sincerity.

I asked him how He feels we get to the point in our society where we can have a open dialogue without one side shutting down the other side. And I acknowledge it comes from both sides. I realize it was a tough order for me to ask of someone half my age.

We talked about social media platforms and how easy it is to be very one-sided. We talked about how easy it is for people who should get along, to end up enemies over simple conversation that neither actually had a stake in.

How do we welcome others to the table when our opinions are so different than ours?

How do we hear without trying to cancel out the others viewpoint?

How do we actively listen instead of defensively responding?

How do we agree to disagree and still respect to the other person?

I hoped maybe he would have the answer, being as passionate on his side as I am on mine. We both agreed that these type of conversation should happen in a mutual place of respect and probably in person. We were closer together on our desire for more unity than one might gather from our opposing views.

I want to learn how to have the conversation. I want to welcome those from the other side of the table into conversation, because I feel like it’s the only way that we will ever get past the division that is ever present in our country.

Prayer – Lord help me to except others as You do. Help me to accept others as You have accepted me. Help guide my words. Help guide my silence. Guide my actions and guide my inaction to bring glory and honor to You.

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