I recently went to a coffee shop and ordered a coffee. I handed over my card to pay (and collect points for that store). The person at the cash looked at my card, rolled her eyes, and sighed. She then put on a plastic glove to take my card and swipe it. After she gave me back my card, with another sigh, she threw the plastic glove in the garbage, and then turned and washed her hands before getting my coffee.
I cannot imagine having a friendly conversation with her about anything connected to COVID-19. At the same time, there are people that I have met who are so opposed to government policies and media reporting, that you cannot have a friendly conversation connected to COVID-19 without them erupting in anger.
We live in a very divisive time, and it seems as if divisiveness is growing, not diminishing. This divisiveness is definitely present in the Christian community and local churches.
How do you live as a Christian in a quarrelsome and divisive time? How do you live inside the church? In your neighbourhood? In your city? Here are a few thoughts.
First and most important: there are no traffic jams on the second mile.
This is an old Christian saying. It is making a point about something that Jesus said about living with enemies, and people who oppose you or who are just difficult to live with. He said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41 NIV).
The point of the saying is that you do not see so many people trying to “walk” and live the words of Jesus that there are traffic jams on that second mile. I confess that “walking the second mile” does not come naturally to me. But I also know that Jesus is wise and His words are life.
Prayerfully choosing to keep Jesus’ words will not end all of the divisiveness, but a moment’s reflection should show you that His words are the way forward in a time of divisiveness. Some people need to start to walk the second mile with divisive, angry, quarrelsome people in the hope that a conversation to know the truth will develop, and divisiveness will diminish. Pray that your church will be a second-mile church.
Second, beware of inhabiting an echo chamber.
A little while ago I read a newspaper analysis of a public opinion poll concerning what people were willing to do and not do, right now, and in the near future. One of the findings in the poll was that a very large percentage of people who were double vaccinated were very nervous about going to an event with people who were unvaccinated.
The same poll showed that a very large number of unvaccinated people were very open to going to an event where there would be both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The person writing the article mentioned, as an aside, that he found this very surprising (the opinions of the unvaccinated).
I said to my wife that the reporter’s comment was very revealing. It showed that he inhabited an echo chamber. If he had any friends who were unvaccinated or read anything by those who were unvaccinated, then the poll should not have been a surprise.
Now I would be willing to bet that the reporter would be offended with the claim that he lived in an echo chamber, but his comment revealed he did. An echo chamber is when you only interact with people who think like you. Christians can also inhabit an echo chamber, and if you want to walk the second mile, you need to get out of the echo chamber and charitably interact with people who disagree with you.
Many of you will be surprised how quarrelsome and angry you really are if you read a well-written article by someone who disagrees with you!
In fact many of you will be surprised how quarrelsome and angry you really are if you read a well-written article by someone who disagrees with you! You have not been walking the second mile, you have not even started walking, and someone is having to walk the second mile with you!
Friends, Jesus calls us to be people of the truth, not people of the lie. Knowing the truth requires many things, but one of them is reading and talking with people who disagree with you.
Third, walking the second mile does not mean you never rebuke or discipline a divisive, quarrelsome person.
The meek are not weak but strong. The meek are being strengthened by grace to have self-control, with power and love.
The meek are not weak but strong.
The quarrelsome and divisive lack self-control, and often lack love, leaving only a simmering, angry will to power. While you are patient with the divisive person, they can still cross a line which means that a word of rebuke or discipline must be humbly but clearly given.
Jesus calls you to walk the second mile not so divisiveness will grow and flourish, but because it is one essential part to divisiveness diminishing and dying – while a loving concern for the truth, the person, and the triune God grows.
Friends, please pray for me in this regard. Please pray for your Pastor and your local church. Pray we will be known as second-mile pastors, serving in second-mile churches.