After spending the past few weeks with my granddaughters who are three and five, I can’t help but parallel the worst of their behavior with attitudes and actions now rampant in our society and deeply infecting the church. Childishness is never pretty, and it’s even more difficult to face in ourselves. But I have to admit my own guilt. Thus, I’m not here to point the finger but to suggest that we come before God for insight into our own hearts.
What do we need to put out of our lives? Four big ones come to mind.
- Shifting the blame
“It’s ____’s fault that I ___ her.”
It’s the government’s fault. It’s the liberals or conservatives fault. It’s the Democrats or Republicans fault. It’s the media’s fault. It’s the church’s fault. It’s my neighbor’s fault. It’s my husband’s fault. It’s the devil’s fault. It’s my supervisor’s fault.
Have we forgotten how to take responsibility for our own stuff when we have contributed to the problem? (I’m not talking to you as victims of abuse, rape, or other terrible sins. You are not to blame for the sin of another.)
Have we forgotten that there are ways to work together instead of using others as scapegoats? When we blame those with whom we disagree instead of accepting our part of the problem and finding solutions together, we act like children. When we don’t encourage our elected officials to work together but stubbornly refuse to ever compromise, we enable their childishness.
- Generalizing about people
“She is always __________.”
How would you describe these groups: immigrants, liberals, conservatives, Muslims, Evangelicals, Republicans, Democrats, media, whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, poor, rich?
Let’s admit that our descriptions don’t fit every member of the group. Do you believe and behave like every person of your race or church? Do we see each other through God’s eyes or through our own cultural filter?
Over the past few years my conversations with African-Americans have revealed how much my background clouds my perspective. I have no clue what it would be like to be stigmatized because of the color of my skin. All of my grandparents were poor, but they and their children had opportunities that other groups lacked, and I benefited. I intend to keep having conversations with people unlike me to keep from seeing life through WASP lens.
Generalizing allows us to more easily shift the blame. Do we really believe that every reporter and news outlet is making up false stories—in essence bearing false witness? That every politician is only concerned about herself? Aren’t we judging others in a bad way when we post and like such comments?
- Caring for my interests with little understanding or concern for others
“But I want it!”
At the core of sin is self. What is best for me?
A missionary to Muslims told our church congregation that the church in America has 2 idols: safety and comfort. Wow! I sure see it in myself as I prioritize my financial security over helping the needy, giving to missions rather than going, vacations over generosity, and fear over compassion for refugees.
Where is our compassion and generosity? We don’t look much like Jesus who sacrificed his own comfort and safety to come to earth and die for us.
- A war of words
“You are so mean.” “You’re the worst.”
Bullying and berating others isn’t right in person or online. I was taught not to call other people names, although I have certainly done it. How do we love others as Christ loves them when we verbally lash out at them?
Why do we accept cyber-bullying by anyone? We should always condemn such behavior as sin. After all sin that diminishes other people is especially abhorrent to God who created all people in his image.
Jesus called us to be peacemakers. How can we do that in the midst of the war of words that is all around us?
I am trying to navigate this, but it’s so hard and I often fail. If I post anything, my motive is to speak truth to countermand gossip or misstatements to bring peace. Ignoring what’s going on doesn’t bring peace.
All I can do it ask God for wisdom, truth, and the ability to speak peace into hard conversations.
What other childish things need to put away?