Expressing Conviction Without Casting Condemnation

1 Peter 3-15

More than a decade ago John Maxwell was already saying, “We live in an age of tolerance, where protecting feelings is more highly valued than proclaiming the truth. People look with suspicion upon anyone who desires to influence others to embrace their beliefs.”  Now that observation is more obvious than ever.

Take a look at the media, particularly social media, and how polarizing coverage of any issue has become.  You can’t say or write anything about your belief in anything without it being interpreted as intolerant of someone – racist, sexist, bigot.  Anything you say might be considered a personal attack intended to hurt someone’s feelings.  There is no consideration of the idea that you’re not trying to force your belief on anyone else.  There is no consideration to the idea that you might be merely stating the obvious about something, because if it isn’t politically correct you should not say it at all.  Asking people to consider your point of view, or belief, is not considered civil anymore. 

Somehow anyone with a convicting belief in anything has become categorized a caster of condemnation that must be silenced.  Sometimes those who ride the fence on every issue are the most damning of everyone – ridiculing anyone who speaks up from either side of a topic.  At least the ones who don’t agree have something to disagree on and aren’t just sticking their spoon in the pot to stir up animosity without cause. 

I recently heard a friend say that it takes a certain level of narcissism to speak up about anything – a level of selfish belief that what you have to say should actually be heard.  I have to agree – we all have a level of narcissism that we should be keenly aware of and careful with.  That friend also said the problem with ego isn’t that we all have one it’s that sometimes we forget we have one and it gets out of control.  For those in the middle to be so vocal is probably more narcissistic than the polar opposites to be so intolerant of each others’ point of view.  

Why do we even have “polar” opposites?  Those who can’t share their beliefs without bullying those who don’t adopt it are basically ruining the image of everyone else who does share their belief.  No one is helping anyone consider changing their point of view when everything one says is with a disgustfully hateful tone and attitude.    When we allow the weakness of a few on either side of a conversation to define our perception of everyone in the conversation a divisiveness develops into rampant rage that eventually destroys us all. 

I choose not to participate in such barbaric behavior. When I express a belief my true intention is to offer the opportunity for others to consider that belief and whether they do or don’t is up to them and I don’t love them any differently either way because I believe as Jesus did in loving all people.  Even as he was crucified he didn’t cast insulting comments.  He didn’t reciprocate condemnation for condemnation even when He was fully capable of dealing ultimate damnation.  Instead He simply prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.  

My prayer is that my Christian brothers and sisters will join me in making every effort to be more like Jesus.  To stop participating in the divisive debating that continually corrodes and ever erodes our very ability to behave civilly – to have conversations that challenge us to think deeper than ourselves and force us to deepen our relationship with Christ to dependence on Him rather than mere belief in Him – to have His goodness and greatness far outshine our self righteousness.  My prayer is that we choose words that communicate our conviction without casting condemnation, and that those who hear us out will be able to tell the difference.  

1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

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