An interesting thing happened to me recently … one of my friends tore a strip off my sister-in-law because she had the audacity to express an opinion that was contrary to the held opinion of my friend and the overall thread on Facebook.
I haven’t tackled this with my friend because I have been banned from doing so by my sister-in-law … and, as I love my sister-in-law dearly, I have obeyed her wish. My friend doesn’t even know she’s my sister-in-law or at least that’s what I hope!
The incident has rankled me. It has gotten under my skin because it has made me question how I express my opinion.
Opinions are important and the expression of our opinions is vitally important for a healthy democracy as well as a healthy society & a healthy Church community. We need to be free to express our opinion and should be able to do this in a free, open & honest manner.
However, there appears to be a constraint applied to this free expression. It seems we can only express ourselves as long as it is exactly what is deemed to be acceptable. In essence, you are free to say what you want as long as I agree with you. If I don’t agree with you then I will do all I can to control your speech.
This is not free speech.
This is not loving behaviour for followers of Jesus.
This is my opinion and you are welcome to disagree with me.
You see … how we disagree is vitally important if we are to demonstrate our difference with the world.
If we are called to ’love our neighbour as ourselves’ (Leviticus 19:18) then this means we must give our neighbour what we ourselves want … the opportunity to be heard and, more importantly, to be listened to.
If all you hear … if all you listen to and take in … are voices like your own then you will become more and more extreme. It is through our dialogue … loving, caring dialogue that we grow, we learn and we remain moderate and considerate in our views.
We certainly don’t tear strips off of the other just because we disagree with them. You may win the argument but you WILL lose the person. Is that the way of Jesus? Not from where I am standing, it’s not.
Again … this is my opinion and you are welcome to disagree with me.
We need people who are prepared to radically love the other … and for this to happen we need face up and listen to the opinions of others.
I dearly love my sister-in-law. She has a heart for God that puts me to shame. I know that if she has formed an opinion, it is as a result of her diligent exploration of scripture.
I do not always agree with her. I don’t hold to her views on one or two subjects but that’s by-the-way because I RESPECT her deeply and know her views are coming from her passion for Jesus and her love of her fellow man and woman.
I guess my love for my sister-in-law is more important than my opinions or the vain, narcissistic need to be *always* right.
This is what it means to love our neighbour as ourselves … at least it does to me.
Once more … this is my opinion and you are welcome to disagree with me.
There are certain extreme opinions that must be handled with care … opinions that demean, degrade & destroy. However, we cannot and must not challenge these opinions with the same kind of hate-filled speech and name-calling. We must tackle the opinion-holder with love instead of hate. Granted this is easier said than done … but this is the narrow path and ours is NOT the easy way.
We cannot and must not automatically jump to the conclusion that just because something *sounds* wrong that it *is* intended to demean, degrade & destroy. We must not immediately adopt a defensive stance and label the other as this or that because of their expression. They may have said *X* but their intention may have been *Y*. It may not be … they could have intended *X* but, that said, if you are looking for negativity, you WILL find it … we need to look for the best, not the worst … and we need to take the plank of our own subjectivity and bias out of our eye before we tackle the shard in the other’s eye.
So today … let’s think before we speak to people who we may not agree with … let’s listen too. In doing so, may we love our neighbours as ourselves. If we express ourselves from a stance of love then we cannot go wrong … but we must ensure we are being loving in how we say what we say … as well as in what we say.
Oh and this applies on Social Media … especially Facebook … where doing unto others as we would have them do unto us has never been more necessary.