With every passing year, American citizens become more polarized on an ever-increasing list of divisive issues. Is there any hope for future unity? If we are looking for a time when the country collectively sees the world in the same way, we might be waiting in vain.
That’s why it is critical for Christians to set a different standard of how we interact with people who think and live differently than we do.
Even if we all don’t see eye to eye, we must learn how to stand on our convictions without trampling over people in the process.
The stereotypes of both the right and the left are motivated by a differing singular issue and lacking what the other prioritizes. Let me explain.
The Convictional Conservative Way
For most people operating out of a conservative mindset, they are people who are guided by conviction.
Their moral code provides established lines with which to determine belief and behavior. Stereotypically, these conservatives know what they believe and why they believe it, but they are often characterized as having little patience for others who don’t believe the same way. Critics of conservatives say they are not with the times and unwilling to show concern for others.
The Compassionate Liberal Way
For most people guided with a liberal mindset, most of their causes originate from a starting place of compassion.
In this way of thinking, they want to offer freedom to anyone who has any particular set of hope. Coming from a place of desiring people to pursue what they so desire, they are often characterized by possessing a loose set of guidelines with which people should be able to limit pursuits. Critics of liberals say they have no standard by which to encourage or discourage behavior which can lead to a host of complicated issues.
The Balanced Jesus Way
Is there another way? I hope so. In fact, I think Jesus Christ showed it for us.
Our culture has wrongfully polarized conviction and compassion against each other.
- Conservatives are depicted as those having conviction but no compassion.
- Liberals are depicted as those having compassion but no conviction.
We think that to have a strong moral code means that you have to be ugly about it. We think that to be loving to people means you should let them do whatever they want to do. I think both taken to extremes are dangerous.
So, how does Jesus change it for us?
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
Did you catch the description of Jesus?
He was full of both grace and truth.
Jesus had compassion and conviction.
He was loving and obedient. He was caring yet not lenient. He was ethical yet not overbearing.
How should that change my life as a Christian living in the United States? Hopefully, it changes everything!
I can be unashamedly committed to biblical truth and undeniably caring for fellow citizens.
I can know what I believe and not be a jerk about it. I can be passionate about where I stand and kind enough to listen to your perspective as well. I don’t have to fall into the American trap of idolizing my associates and demonizing my critics. I choose the Jesus way. Know what you believe and be willing to listen to what others believe as well.
The polarization has reached such a level of insanity in our country that we make positive traits to be seen as negative issues within our associations. Even within our churches and denominations, we can’t seem to let down our political affiliations long enough to think and act thoroughly on the issues.
- If a conservative decides to show compassion to someone in a practical way, many within those groups decry it as enabling someone, the social gospel, or liberal tactics.
- If a liberal decides to show conviction on a moral issue, many within those groups bemoan it as unthinkable bigotry, shameful oppression, or unacceptable hate speech.
We have a major problem in the Church if we stereotype compassion as heresy and conviction as bigotry.
To be compassionate to someone does not mean you are leaning toward liberal beliefs.
To be convictional on an issue does not mean you are unleashing hatred upon a person.
Can someone be both convictional and compassionate? Can we live where compassion isn’t a dirty word? Can we give clearance for someone to have a conviction and not submit them to the cancel culture?
The consistent Christian navigates life with unwavering conviction and undeniable compassion.
Can you do both? Jesus did. And since I follow him, I’m gonna die trying.
I’m not ashamed of what I believe, but I’m not going to stop caring for you just because we disagree.
It’s the Jesus way. And I think it is a much better one than what we find ourselves in currently.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.