Last night many of the candidates vying for the Democratic Presidential nomination met for the first of many debates. Because the field is so large at this early date, there is another debate tonight for another dozen or so candidates. Then, in the months ahead, as men and women exit the race as their pathways to victory narrow, the debate stage will shrink. Opinions will crystallize around certain candidates and their platforms, and then: a nominee. Then come more debates, this time between the challenger and President Trump. Winners and losers will be declared… yet none of this really seems to move the needle. Most people already know how they intend to vote in 2020, and if pressed, even in 2022, 2024, and beyond.
Still, we debate. Sometimes we debate because debating is fun. It can be a helpful way to clarify our own thinking as we develop our own positions and arguments for or against a given topic. We debate because some of us are born salespeople who are convinced we can persuade anyone of anything given enough time. We debate because we believe things so passionately that we can’t fathom how anyone sees things differently and trust that, if only they knew what we know, they would see things as we do, too. This is just not the case.
We encounter a similar phenomenon in living out our call to evangelize. There are people well-versed in Christian apologetics armed with a pocketful of memorized Bible verses who, with the best of intentions, will set out to make non-Christians feel stupid enough to commit their lives to Christ. There are others who, knowing the frosty reception people who are “too religious” (and, if you have read this far, that’s likely you, too) get when we talk about faith, choose instead to remain silent. How can we bear witness to the faith we share in a way that invites people on the outside in and people on the inside into ever-deeper relationship with Christ?
We are entering into what promises to be a heated and polarizing season. Yard signs, bumper stickers, Facebook posts, it’s all coming sooner than we think. People we love and respect will say things with which we do not agree. It is going to take God’s grace and disciplined intention to resist the temptation to join into debates which do nothing to bring about more peace and justice in our world. In the week ahead, I pray we will all live out of the deep wells of grace and wisdom God makes available to us through the Holy Spirit, through the practice of the disciplines, and through choosing to love what is good. This is where we begin; the road to actual just living gets rockier and more challenging, but it too remains within the bounds of the kingdom of God, and God is working a way within each and every one of us to remain stitched together in the body of Christ even in our disagreements. Choose peace and, when necessary, peaceable debates, and remember you are God’s beloved.
Grace and Peace,
Food for thought:
“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other.”
Galatians 5:13-15 (CEB)
“No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.”
-Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World