By Nick Brzozowski
People are hurt. People are angry. Our country is divided.
With the elections coming up soon, I think it would be good to talk about politics.
Now, I know more than anyone else that I am not qualified to tell you who to vote for.
But, there is one thing I want to address that relates to the overall political climate.
And that is LABELS.
Jesus told a story about a man who was attacked and left for dead. The religious leaders walked passed and did nothing to help. But the last person someone would expect to be the hero jumped to action and rescued the man's life.
One point I believe Jesus was making was that we can’t always label people as good or bad. Sometimes, the respected people neglect to do the most obvious things, while the villains (in our minds) wind up being the most kind and loving.
What does this mean for us?
In a world of echo chambers, sound bites and debates that are remembered by their interruptions, we don’t take the time to understand the other side anymore.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Labels are important. Our intuitions, the categories we place people and things into, our first reactions, our triggers — they all matter to help us live and relate to one another. Without them, we would only view the world rationally, stripped of emotions. Although that doesn’t sound so bad, it would be devastating to ourselves and society - having no compassion available!
So, labels are good. But, only if they are going to be used as tools.
Unfortunately, we are using labels as weapons to attack, to cancel, to dehumanize!
As weapons, labels have the potential to be more harmful and destructive than guns and explosives.
And when labels are weapons, we are fighting the wrong battles toward the wrong kingdom.
Instead, Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God — a different kingdom. A kingdom more valuable than anything we own!
If we are going to fight a different battle for a different kingdom, we must use different (and maybe surprising) weapons.
But, not the love you might be thinking of.
The love we must wield is not a self-serving, follow-your-desires, love-who-you-want-to-love kind of love.
When Jesus talked about love, he challenged us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us.
When Jesus hung of the cross, he prayed for his executioners.
Toward the end of his ministry, he gave his disciples a new commandment, to love as he has loved. I like to think of Matthew hearing that new commandment with utter amazement. When Jesus found him, he was hated by almost everyone. Since he was a tax collector, he would have been the last person any Rabi would have chosen for his team - and yet, Jesus extended acceptance, even to Matthew.
Matthew would have felt the weight of Jesus’ challenge to love as Jesus loved.
But, how about you. Can you seek to love those who are hardest to love?
James said to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
Of all people, James understood the importance of listening. He was actually a brother of Jesus. And scholars agree that James did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God growing up. He probably thought Jesus was a bit of a lunatic. But, that all changed when he heard the tomb was empty and saw his half brother in resurrected form!
In that moment, James realized something that we must all come to realize.
He discovered that he had the capacity to be wrong.
Do you approach news with curiosity or with criticism? Do you leave any room to listen and learn or do you have to always be right?
We think that our capacity to convince is our strength, but think about the leaders you want to follow. At least for me, I would rather follow a leader who can admit their mistakes!
If the other two weren’t strange to be seen as weapons, this one is.
You see, in the Kingdom of God, there is a reversal.
You win by losing.
Jesus won through dying.
The very first Christians lost - they lost their reputation, they lost their livelihood, they lost their lives. And yet, their movement became the dominant religion by the fourth century.
They listened so much and they loved so much and they embraced so much loss that eventually the world wanted to hear what they had to say.
We know those holiday conversations with relatives that just blow up. Why does this happen? One reason is that at some point two people decided that they were going to win. But, in the end, no one really won.
What would it take for you to be ok with losing every now and then?
How might losing in the short term help you win in the long run?
Losing might just help you grow more than winning. Losing might just gain more trust with others than winning at all costs. Losing might just be the most loving thing you can do.
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