RELIGIOUS extremism is something that not only turns people off, these days it’s driving new offensives that apparently equate to terrorism amid myriad less overt forms of violence. God, however, is and has always been, calling us to respectful unity of purpose — to love others.
Here are some ideas that heal rather than harm:
1. Refuse to like, comment on or share divisive social media. Sure, you have your right to free speech, but consider the cost if your view adds to the division and is observable to others. (Remember that social media reports what you do to your friends, followers, and contacts.) You get to voice your opinion — your case for being ‘right’ — but consider the cost. Right things done the wrong way are not right anymore. Speak the truth in love, and if that’s not possible stay silent and pray for wisdom.
2. Find one person you have rejected (viewed from their perception) in the past week and make creative, intentional amends to this person. That’s right, say sorry. Make it up to them somehow. Own what you did wrong. That’s humility. It promotes reconciliation. News Flash: the spiritually mature promote others’ good, not self-good.
3. When in public, smile, be respectful and courteous, observe others through the heart of Christ and pray for them. Watch what God does in your midst. Be on your best behaviour when no-one is looking. Be an instrument for peace and reconciliation.
4. Resolve today to be an evangelist of connection. Have no goal to ‘save’ people in the name of Jesus. Simply have the goal to do anything that enhances connection. Trust the Holy Spirit. Realise that establishing connection means risking authenticity to create intimacy. Connection requires boldness, which is a love that does not shrink, but creates opportunities in social situations.
5. Identify blockers to intimacy in your personality, character, and make-up. Devise a plan to moderate these blockers. Some of these factors we have to live with, but others, like learning about positive body language and friendly gestures, can help.
6. Be unusual in your love. Allow eccentricities. Disallow biases. Find people fascinating. Find them loveable as God sees them loveable. Use your ingenuity to love people genuinely and innovatively.
7. Bless a family member today. Bless three family members this week. It is often easier to bless a stranger than it is a family member. Show your real love by loving a family member, especially one you normally disagree with. Love when it’s real is often not easy.
8. Challenge those who take advantage of others, and take advantage of the challenges others throw your way. Be an advocate, but of others and not of oneself.
9. Brace yourself for relational shockwaves. Be prepared for tests, remembering people themselves are not the enemy. The issues conspire and are the tyranny. But the issues are just the issues. They’re just matters. We’re the ones who take things personally.
10. Do something — anything — to allow an exhausted person some rest. Such consideration is always innovative. Even to listen to them in their exasperation is something that may reduce their burden.
11. Ask and never assume. But we invariably do assume too much as some point or other. The key is to do it less and less.
12. Study Christ, apply His Word, and reap unfathomable rewards. To study Christ is to become a lover of fallen humanity who so desperately needs Him. As we study Christ we connect with a Saviour who understands people’s fallenness that we ought to accept, too.
Stop at nothing to connect with people, because in connection is love.