We have four kids, so I guess it goes without saying that arguments and disagreements are an everyday occurrence around here.
Most of the time it boils down to this: somebody didn’t get his or her way.
When they don’t get their way, my kids can turn our home into a battle zone with lines drawn in the sand and everybody ganging up on each other.
Sibling rivalry is rampant at our house, much as we try to prevent it.
When I praise or compliment one child, it’s not unusual for one of the others to get offended and decide that I’m being unfair.
Over and over I’ve expressed how much I love each one of them. I tell them that a compliment to one is not an insult to the other. I can do nice things for one child without it meaning that I’m ignoring or rejecting another.
But they are children.
Apparently, so are we.
It’s human nature, isn’t it?
People balk, pout, fuss, lash out, accuse. And we tend to do it most often when things don’t go our way. Or when somebody else gets something we thing we’re entitled to.
Just throw a supreme court decision out there and millions of people pout because they didn’t get their way. Others complain because the religious community isn’t willing to change its mind overnight.
It turned into an all-out family brawl on the internet this week, didn’t it?
But here’s a game-changer: What if God still loves us all?
- What if somebody else’s freedom isn’t actually an infringement upon yours?
- What if God isn’t showing favoritism or withholding blessing on any of us?
- What if God wants more for His children than the sum of our disagreements?
- What if He’s concerned about bigger things than petty arguments and supreme court decisions and even (gasp) the fate of these United States of America?
I remind my children frequently that there will come a day when they will need each other more than they do now. That their dad and I won’t always be around, but they will always be connected to each other. Even though they won’t always agree and they will get angry with each other.
Yet they’ll always be connected. They are related. They share the same origin.
The trending hashtag this week was #lovewins.
I, for one, was happy to see the LGBTQ community granted equality in the eyes of the law. In my opinion, the decision was one of upholding the Constitution and its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all U.S. citizens.
But not everybody saw it that way.
And Christians, we made a spectacle of ourselves.
Not for sticking to our convictions about what the Bible says. Believe it or not, most of the gay community isn’t offended by your adherence to your beliefs. They’re okay with you disagreeing.
But that’s not what happened this week. Instead, there was a lot “my way or the highway,” a heaping dose of the passive-agressive “this makes me so sad” comment, and a whole bunch of old-fashioned fit-throwing.
All because people didn’t get their way.
Y’all, that’s not love. When we lash out at others and scream “SIN!” at the top of our lungs–even if we believe it’s true–that’s not love.
It’s not even conviction or principles.
And I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say I’m guilty, too. Selfishness is something we all share, a part of the human condition.
But this human race is about more than just who won the latest argument.
We are deeply connected to one another. And every single last one of us is made in the image of Almighty God and deeply loved by Him.
When we are Christians, there is an even deeper bond. We are one body, the body of Christ here on earth, empowered by His spirit and commissioned with the spreading of good news for all people.
When God says yes to some of His children, it doesn’t mean He is saying no to the rest.
My beliefs and convictions and opinions are just as strong as yours, believe me, even though they may not be the same.
But if I step back and look at it from God’s perspective, don’t we sort of resemble toddlers throwing sand at each other, yelling “MINE!” and fighting over who’s holding the shovel?
Real Freedom: It’s Not What You Might Think
Tomorrow Americans will celebrate our freedom as a nation.
But as Christians, we have something greater. God has freed us from the curse of sin and death through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Freedom isn’t free, though, when we chain ourselves to our petty disagreements with our fellow humans.
Resorting to name-calling, mud-slinging and insult-hurling may be covered under the freedom-of-speech clause, but it has nothing to do with Christ’s freedom.
From atop our high and mighty Facebook horses, we declare our opinions loudly for all to hear. We get trapped in the tangle of who said what, whose fault it was, who’s to blame (Obama, right?). We go back and forth debating the letter of the law, splitting hairs, and dividing ourselves into opposing teams of us and them.
And that’s not freedom in Christ at all.
It’s legalism. And legalism doesn’t set anybody free. Legalism binds and weighs people down.
Back in his day, the apostle Paul dealt with the hot-button issue of circumcision.
The Jewish people were devoted to their way of life, and they were God’s people. Yet when outsiders started joining the fold and becoming followers, some legalists insisted that adherence to the letter of the Mosaic law was an absolute requirement. And that included circumcision.
Paul railed against it, because it was antithetical to his teaching of salvation through faith alone.
We have to really stretch ourselves here to imagine just how radical The Way of the gospel really was to these Jews, steeped and educated as they were in the law.
And yet, God was doing a new — a radical — thing. It was a difficult adjustment, a complete paradigm shift–a new covenant.
- It made them question everything.
- It made some of them defensive.
- It was near impossible to wrap one’s mind around.
I think the apostle Paul said it best when he wrote to the church in Galatia:
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. . .
For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.” Excerpts from Galatians 5, MSG, emphasis added.
With all the squabbling over world views, lifestyles, and preferences these days, we would all — as Christians — do well to heed these words of Paul.
True freedom is found in loving each other.
It doesn’t come naturally, but supernaturally.
But it’s what Jesus meant when He said we could be free indeed.
So on a day when we celebrate our own nation’s traditions, heritage and independence, will you take a moment to remember how we are all connected? How we are each created in God’s image and how He sent His Son not to condemn, but to save us?
We need each other.
Will you love today? And in so doing, experience real freedom?
Happy Independence Day!