My friend Kristi Atkinson once wrote an article offering “Five Prompts for Praying the News.” In that article, the first prompt Kristi suggested, when engaging with news that elicits a strong reaction, is to offer our reaction to God. In other words, when we read or hear a story on the news that stirs up anger or sadness or grief or righteous indignation, instead of rushing to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Kristi suggests we go to God first.
Recent current events have opened the door to many different and significant conversations. In many cases, these conversations are long overdue and extremely important. Conversations about subjects like racism, sexual identity, the welfare and protection of children, symbolism, and systems—not to mention politics!—require thoughtful deliberation and large doses of grace. However, these kinds of topics often ignite strong opinions and emotions. Differences of opinion surface, even among those in the body of Christ.
Often, the result of many of these discussions—both online and face-to-face—is polarization, defensiveness, and resentment. Before long, we’ve built up walls between “us and them” and between “us and God vs. them.”
The article Kristi wrote draws us away from this type of divisiveness by calling us first to God. There, in the presence of God, we confess our confusion and fear and disappointment and sadness. In turn, he reminds us our struggle is not against flesh and blood. As Paul shared in his letter to the Ephesians, our sisters and brothers are not our enemies, even when we disagree on tough topics.
The truth is that our enemy is the one who seeks to keep us separated—from one another in our flesh and blood and from God for eternity. Even when people take horrendous action or speak words that cause deep pain and disappointment, we are called to love them and to pray for them.
To be sure, there is a place for thoughtful dialogue and prayerful discernment when faced with difficult events in our world, and changes in our culture. As followers of Jesus Christ, however, our focus should be on partnering with the spirit of God to push back the darkness and make way for the kingdom of God. We are in this together—for God and for all the people of the world.
When we forget the true source of our struggle and focus instead on flesh and blood divisions, the true enemy is content to fly beneath the proverbial radar.
Let’s remember where the real battle is waged. Let’s seek something more than pointless arguments, name-calling, finger-pointing, and side-taking. Let’s go first to God with our reactions, and then move forward in the peace of knowing these two things: the victory has been won, and we are stronger together.
Some questions for you: How have you been feeling lately about the state of the world? What does it mean to you to partner with God in making way for his kingdom? How important is it to you to be right?