Where do we plant our flags? What hills are worth dying on? Which lines in the sand can never be crossed?
The issue at the root of those questions has been gnawing at many of us lately, in our age of division. It’s something that can’t be resolved in this post or any other, really, it requires careful consideration and revisiting along the way.
But most people don’t give it reflection. They come across a dividing line and think that it always means division. If a denomination changes a stance on a specific issue, then their church must leave. If an acquaintance (or even a friend) reveals a position on politics or justice that they disagree with, they renounce the relationship. If an apparel company backs a controversial athlete, some will buy more from that company and others will burn their closet to the ground.
It’s exhausting, but is it necessary? Maybe in some cases, but probably not in the majority.
We’re in an age of polarization, and it’s dangerous. The idea of civil disagreement is becoming an afterthought. Some ideas and beliefs are being deemed unworthy of engagement and consideration. People don’t know how or simply don’t want to build bridges with people who are different.
It’s all too easy to live in our ideological bubbles. We can control with channels we watch on TV, which websites we visit, which people and news sources fill our social media feeds. We can have a fairly productive and fairly meaningful (at the surface) life without interacting much, or at all, outside of our comfort zone.
But that’s clearly not how we were meant to live. That doesn’t bring the most joy and fulfillment and experience out of life. There are certainly spheres of influence and individuals we should avoid, but that list is few and far between.
So how do we discern when the line really is impossible to cross, or the issue truly does call for a righteous division?
Carefully. Cautiously. Reluctantly. Exploring all angles and levels and working to determine whether an issue gets to the core of who we are and what we believe, or whether it’s more of a surface issue that can remain a source of disagreement but not separation.
The practices of discernment and patience and grace need more emphasis in our culture. Knee-jerk division and attack needs to go away.
The more we can practice those disciplines individually, the more they will manifest themselves in our communities and the culture at large.