The temperature in the room bumped up a notch. Voices grew increasingly agitated. Emotions intensified. I regretted broaching the subject.
Admittedly, these realities about Ancient Near Eastern writings would lead us to grapple with beliefs many of us held long and firm and dear. They stretched our faith. But, if we held these realities up to the Sacred Text, it could transform the way we relate to God, to others, and to the world around us. But for now, the mere discussion—of the possibilities, of the implications, of these realities—stirred up turmoil in our Bible study.
Suddenly, in the midst of the commotion, she blurted it out, “What are we so afraid of?” The room fell silent. The petite woman, pushing 80 years of age, had uttered the words of truth that cut through the adversarial atmosphere taking hold.
In the course of conversation, fear had snuck into the room, and it slithered among us. Twisting words. Stirring up confusion. Creating suspicion. Drawing battle lines between friends. Blaming. Accusing. Beckoning each to draw the sword, and defend her point of view.
That’s what fear does, and our world is riddled with fearful rhetoric, spawning fearful people…afraid of loosing their identity, their rights, their power…afraid of being deceived, being wrong, being vulnerable…afraid of the unknown, the different, the opposing.
Everything about fear sets itself up against Jesus and His Kingdom. And fear has no place in the life of one who follows Jesus, especially when it comes to loving others. And Jesus made no exceptions for loving others, not even the exception of those people. You know, those people—from the other political party, living that way, believing such things, pushing this ideology. And we can love those people genuinely, humbly, and without fear because…
Love does not require agreement or some sort of “right” behavior. (After all, Jesus loved each of us long before we “agreed” with Him or had “right” behavior…as if any of us have perfectly “arrived” at either of those things anyway!)
Compassion does not require compromise. (Jesus felt, and acted with, compassion toward all sorts of people without comprising His mission or His ministry or the truth.)
Open-mindedness—the willingness to hear another’s perspective, gaining understanding and, perhaps, even learning something—does not necessitate a change of convictions. (Consider Simon the Zealot, one of the members in Jesus’ Inner Twelve. He thought the Kingdom of God comes by picking up the sword and killing your opponent. Yet, Jesus always knew that the Kingdom of God comes by laying down your life. The cross bears witness that Jesus did not have a change in conviction.)
So, go ahead. Be friends (real friends) with someone different than you. With compassion, move toward someone with whom you disagree. Engage in conversation with someone holding differing views. After all, what are you so afraid of?