Growing up, my family loved to debate. Our family was split down the political middle and, honestly, both sides really enjoyed ribbing the other. The pitch reached levels loud enough to say it was outright arguing sometimes but it was lovingly loud. No one was excluded from family get-togethers and calls didn’t go unanswered.
So basically, in modern terms, no one found themselves “unfriended” after a heated discussion.
I feel pretty certain that means my family was actually debating and not just screaming at each other for the fun of it.
I figured out not to participate pretty early on. At least that’s how I remember it. Largely, I opted out because when I voiced my opinion, my dad would say something like, “I can appreciate your viewpoint but WHY do you believe that?” And in 1991, doing anything resembling research to support my opinion left me less time for things like reading YM Magazine and going out with my friends. None of whom seemed at all interested in a Friday night at the library studying newspapers and reference books.
Microfiche. Your way back word of the day.
Then a couple of years ago, I started getting a little uncomfortable with what I was watching and hearing and understanding about the world around me. Social media gave us a window into the lives of others as never before and, well, I wasn’t sure how to process the information.
And so I decided to do what my sixteen-year-old self wasn’t interested in.
I started pretty simply. If someone I respected and admired, from either side of any political aisle, shared or liked something on social media, I read it. Sometimes the articles would reference books and I’d add the book to my “To Read” list. I started listening to podcasts. Listening to the voices of people from all aspects of life. If a documentary were referenced, I’d look it up and find time to watch it. I’m a sucker for a good documentary. If a movement seemed incredibly foreign to me, I’d research its beginnings, their platform and read the counter arguments too.
Then last year with the political season in full swing, I found myself rather angry. Honestly, that’s the best way I can describe it. I was angry with everyone on every side for every candidate. None of them seemed worthy of my vote. And, more importantly, my friends on all those sides seemed as irritated I did. There was lots of arguing and unfriending going on.
Zero healthy debate but a modern-day, social media, meet-me-behind-the-school brawl.
And admittedly, I got swept up into it.
I managed to hold my tongue on social media but that’s because I’m an introvert who generally doesn’t enjoy conflict. I was afraid of getting myself into a battle I never intended to and knew I’d have no way of winning.
I’m not a very good fighter.
But in person? I was happy to raise my voice with righteous indignation and prideful frustration.
I took time off from social media. Which is basically burying my head in my teenage magazine, going to a movie and pretending the arguments around me weren’t happening.
But then I put on my big-girl pants, pulled my head out of the sand and went back to doing what I knew I could.
Post-election, I felt like I had a whole new set of voices talking. Ones I had not been actively attempting to listen to. In fact, I didn’t even know they existed. But once I knew who they were, it was time to dig in and see if I could, at a bare minimum, come to an educated awareness of their world view.
I find when I seek out thoughtful, insightful, well-written pieces about a topic or a culture or a movement, I come out on the other side feeling less combative and more understanding. More empathetic.
Where I was watching before, now I am seeing. Where I was hearing, now I am listening. And where I thought was understanding has become a realization what I really needed was to be more knowledgeable.
As I’ve been studying John this year, I find myself reading the words and actions of the Pharisee’s vastly differently than I had before. I see myself in them. Not that long ago I would declare myself far superior to them.
Oh no, I would totally see Jesus for exactly who He was. The Messiah. Son of God. Savior of the World.
But I know differently now.
Me and Caiaphas? We are the same.
I would have absolutely sacrificed the life of one man to save a nation. And foolishly, willingly, and arrogantly done so.
The Pharisees had the same evidence as the disciples did. More so, even. Those poor disciples did not have the advantage of years of scriptural study in their corner. But they’d seen the miracles. They’d felt His presence. They knew the truth and power of His words.
The Pharisees simply had an expectation of who their King would be and Jesus was not it. They had their opinion. They had been watching and had been hearing and they thought they understood.
But they were wrong.
They feared losing their position as a protected nation under Roman authority. They feared losing their own power as the leaders of that nation. And they feared, if Romans thought they were following this “King Jesus,” they would lose their lands and finances and safety.
Looking at the other side of any movement or idea or position, I found myself afraid of losing my nation, my voice and my safety.
I was a Pharisee.
And you know what? All my reading and studying has changed me in oh so many ways but in some ways, not at all. I have some long-held viewpoints which simply cannot be moved. As a Jesus-follower, there are topics which are nonnegotiable.
But there are plenty of ideas and flawed understandings that needed to change.
And more importantly, I’ve learned more about being honorable.
I’ve learned to put my pride and expectations and preconceived notions down. Instead, I want to be the person who sees others as Jesus sees them. The person who listens with a heart of compassion and empathy instead of hearing them with my own prejudices and assumptions first. Where I don’t feel like I understand, I want to dive in and learn as much as I can.
This isn’t a left or right thing. This is a heart check for me. Where is Jesus and His love in my responses, in my beliefs, in my mind? Where is Jesus in my expectations of government and resources? Where is Jesus in my understanding of my country, my fellow Americans and the rest of the people of the world?
Without Jesus, I’m just a Pharisee running my mouth and letting my fears of losing my nation, my power and my property to “them.” With Jesus, y’all, there simply is no “them.” We are “us.”
So my question to you is, what have you read or listened to or watched lately that was counter to your own personal beliefs and views?
If the answer is nothing or not much, then maybe it’s time to step out and test your own heart. I think you’ll be glad you did.