Can We Talk?
A white Crossroads Bible College alumnus started a conversation on Facebook seeking to understand the racial divide. After a few days he decided to close the conversation. Some, many of whom were Christians, could not engage in an edifying conversation.
We are living in a very divisive time. It is a time when Christian compassion, especially within the body of Christ, must provide the needed environment to soften and unite hearts!
The political, cultural, moral and racial tensions within the US are polarizing. The divisions are deep; the name calling is inflammatory, and hearts are hardening. Respectful conversations between differing groups are rare, even among believers.
How can we avoid the fracturing of the people of God along racial, political, and gender lines, as we see happening in secular society? How do we demonstrate the compassion of Christ to everyone without compromising the truth of Christ for anyone?
In the midst of polarizing contention and confusion, it is easy for me to harden my heart. Compassion is easily shut out by an honest fear of compromise! While truth must never be surrendered, nor must compassion be denied.
Christ’s love is manifested in his sacrificial death for us. We demonstrate that Christ’s love dwells in us by not shutting up our hearts to those in need, but rather sharing what we have with them (1 John 3:16-17). Gospel-centered compassion is a critical need within our culture. We must expand a culture of compassion. So why would believers harden—“shut up”—their hearts?
Why Would I Harden My Heart?
There are numerous reasons why one might harden his heart toward others. A few I struggle with include past hurts and failures, criticism, being deceived, fear of enabling someone in sin, or my lack of resources to provide adequate help. And yet, to give full disclosure: there are times I want vengeance! Such thinking may lead to indifference, judgmental condemnation, or lack of action.
I am challenging myself, and the body of Christ, to show compassion, and we begin to show compassion by engaging in edifying communication. Edifying conversations occur when we have a clear vision of people.
Compassionate eyes: Clearer Perception Is Needed
Poor vision clouds one’s view of the preciousness of a soul. Sometimes my view of people is shaped by media and limited exposure. Such limited knowledge leaves me with a perverted view of groups and a perverted view of the motives of individuals. I must apply the divine eye salve of the Word daily, lest I become blind to the hardening taking place within my heart. It is too easy to forget the sin from which I have been cleansed (2 Peter 1:8-9).
Christ, contrary to his disciples, saw the woman at the well, as thirsty and needing what he had to offer, eternal life. The disciples saw her as someone to avoid and blame. They did not even want to have a conversation. Their perverted perception had blinded them to the preciousness of a soul (John 4).
It is amazing that the disciples lacked compassion even though they had the Savior as their mentor! Yet, we can know God’s Word without allowing his love to motivate our attitudes and actions. I need God’s grace to demonstrate the love of God through me!
Compassionate Praying: We Need His Love
Seeking a clear vision begins with communication with God first. How convicting is it to recall Christ hanging on the cross not for his sins, but for the sins of those who were crucifying him. Hanging on the cross, beaten, bloody, and mocked, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Like 23:34).
Christ’s perspective and compassion melts my heart and brings me to repentance! I am praying for our national leaders, the policies they draft, and various people groups affected by them. My heart is softening.
A prayer for myself and the body of Christ is found in Ephesians 3:16-20. It is a prayer worth praying! I need such selfless love to replace the selfishness that hardens my heart. The heart where the love of God dwells is marked by compassion for others.
Compassionate Words: How I Can Edify Rather Than Vilify
Compassion moves us beyond non-beneficial or harmful words to encouraging, empowering and transformative actions. 1 John 3:17 warns against merely talking about love rather than reaching out with action to help others.
This statement by John, however, does not deny the power of the right word in the proper context to impact others positively. Scripture attests that the right words can be edifying (Proverbs 25:11-12; Ephesians 4:29). In the body of Christ edifying words should lead to loving relationships, which should result in unified evangelization within our communities for the glory of God. But how can we edify one another when we cannot engage in a respectful conversation?
I believe our society, and especially believers, need to be edified rather than vilified. How do we create a culture of compassion that communicates across the great divisions within our culture? What action can we take?
I have challenged myself to edify and unify believers that we might model and engage in compassionate acts, leading to evangelization within our community! I am motivated to do this as I remember how God has used people from different political views, ethnic groups, and moral persuasions to encourage and empower me. For example: There was my white middle school teacher who called me her “all-American student” in the early sixties. She inspired me. I maintained an A grade point average in her history class. In 1968 two white men visited my home and led me to saving faith in Christ. In 1973 my Caucasian wife married me!
Thus, focusing on our racial divide, I began a Facebook discussion asking people to share something someone from a different racial background said or did that edified them. The responses of others have been encouraging!
Join the Conversation
How does God’s love motivates you to compassionate action in the midst of our contentious culture?
What has someone from a different ethnic or cultural group said or done to you that has edified and encouraged you?
As leaders in the biblical Counseling movement we must promote compassionate cultures that lead to unified efforts to evangelize our communities.