I was watching the Pirates take on the Mets the other night when the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial came through. My initial response was surprise- then dismay as this was really a no-win situation. A young man is dead, his family forever affected. Zimmerman, while found innocent will likely live in fear for quite a long time. For our community and our country- we continue to polarize- to be pushed further apart. And regardless of what the verdict would have been.
In our vision statement at Hope Church- we believe that we believe God is calling us to be “a diverse community impacting thousands through passionate worship, intentional discipleship, and Christ-like service.”
Our prayer is to be a diverse congregation because when we read the Scriptures- we see that God is calling the world to himself. When we read the scriptures- especially in Revelation- we see that ever tribe and tongue is gathered around God’s throne worshiping. Our Church is to be a gateway- a portal- a glimpse of what life is like in heaven. If that is true- then our congregation must be diverse.
I believe that as Christians, we are to avoid polarization around the issues of the day. Let me be clear- we are to hate sin, especially the sin in our own lives. And we are to know what the Bible says and live out those beliefs- but it means that we avoid polarizing rhetoric, attitudes, and actions that divide rather than bring together. That means we are to be bridge-builders. Ed Stetzer, blogger and President of Lifeway Research provided some responses to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial on his blog The Exchange. One of the responses is from Dr. Christena Cleveland- a social psychologist. She writes,
“Privileged people of the cross seek out, stand with, and stick their necks out for people who have problems that are nothing like their own. Privileged people of the cross resist the magnetic draw of our culturally-polarized society. Privileged people of the cross jump every societal hurdle in order to understand the perspective of, stand with and advocate for the other.
Just like Jesus did for us.”
As people of the cross, as bridge builders, we must do everything we can to understand the perspective of, stand with, and advocate for the other- our neighbors.
I had lunch this past week with a man who identifies himself as gay. We have developed a friendship over the past year- and we went to lunch in order to share stories and find common ground- and to enjoy our friendship. I did not go to call him a sinner, or to try and change him. I went to understand his experience (I have a lot to learn about his experiences) I went to understand him. I went to be the best friend I could be. I went to build a bridge.
In our lives as Christian, because of sin, we are separated from God. Our sinfulness and God’s holiness puts us at polar opposites. In many ways, my sin and God’s holiness repel each other. But God send Jesus to be a bridge- the only way that I could be cleansed of my sin and live in relationship with God. In our lives, we are called to be bridge builders- to be used to draw people closer to God.
I think there are some questions to ask of ourselves as Christians as we interact with society and weigh in on the issues of the day.
Am I living as a bridge builder? Is the way I talk about politics, social issues polarizing? Are the things I post on twitter or facebook helping people to grow in their faith or to question my faith? Am I living my life to understand and advocate for those who are different than me? Do my actions, my words, my lifestyle draw people to want to know Jesus? Or push them further away?
Being a bridge-builder is not about compromising our beliefs, but it is understanding that not everyone believes what we believe and being respectful of that. Being a bridge-builder means that it is more important to be in relationship than being right. Being a bridge-builder is realizing that I cannot change anyone- that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
How is God using you to build bridges in your community? With people different from you?