As the year draws to the end, it is a time reflecting on the year gone by. Any casual observation of the last year leaves most recognizing it leaves us much to be desired. This past year has produced a division in our country unlike anything I’ve seen in my short 36 years. Friends and family alike have been divided by personal convictions and the lines that they’ve drawn. It could be Trump vs. Hillary, liberal media vs. conservative media, gun control vs. 2nd Amendment, common core vs. anti common core, black lives matter vs. blue lives matter, or other debates that surround sexuality and how one self identifies. They have all produced divisions in our lives.
It often appeared that any conversation would turn to some sort of divisive subject. Often times, the topic of conversation compelled a discussion that would either embolden each other’s resolve if you were found to be in agreement, or, if not, it would create a gulf between the parties that slowly produced some amount of animosity. “Agree to disagree” has quickly become impossible.
As many of you know, I am a person of strong conviction. If a subject comes up and I feel strongly about it, one way or another, I will often make my convictions known. But I don’t believe we live in a world where this is always wise or prudent anymore. My concern has not been losing respect in someone else’s eyes or suffer some sort of social disgrace, but losing the opportunity for the Gospel.
The great missionary William Carey has a list of “11 Commandments of Missions” that I recently discovered. As I was reading through this list, I noticed one of them said what I thought in a much better way than I ever could. His third commandment was, “Abstain from all English manners which might increase prejudice against the gospel.”
For William Carey, he sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel, even general customs that would burn bridges with someone of a different culture. When Carey moved to India, he was careful to consider his manners and customs and what would immediately close the ears of those around him. This mentality of viewing all behavior and conversation in view of the Gospel has been one of my main concerns this year.
My concern was that, should I become vocal about a subject that was incredibly divisive but lacking in the impact of consequences that hang in the balance when it comes to the Gospel, I might lose that opportunity for the greater truth. It isn’t that those things are not important, but I wouldn’t want to burn a bridge the Gospel can travel over.
We must beware, though. I’m not in favor of sticking my head in the sand and not standing up for what I believe to be good and true. If someone asks me what my convictions are, I will quickly and eagerly explain them, doing my best to connect them and point them to the Gospel. But I think it is wise to not wave a flag that is so quick to divide. If I am going to offend someone, then I want it to be the message of the Gospel, not my stance on gun rights, education, health care, political parties, or any other number of lightening rod topics.
The unfortunate thing is, I believe too many Christians have settled with waving the banner of the 2nd Amendment or voicing their boisterous support of a political party at the cost of reaching those around them with the Gospel. If I turn people off with non-essentials, how quick will they be to listen to the ultimate essential, the beautiful truth of God’s unbounding love in the Gospel?