Why Can’t We Talk!

by Bruce Strom

I’m tired of the divisiveness that mars America.  Why can’t candidates for the most powerful office on Earth treat each other better than grade school bullies?  Why can’t Senators even talk to someone nominated to the United States Supreme Court?  Why can’t we talk?

The ideals of democracy were built upon the freedom to engage in conversation.  Competing viewpoints were understood as the means to strengthen compromise.  Our Constitution was created in just this fashion.  Yet today we seem only to shout or stand silent.

While it is easy to pick on politicians, my deeper concern is for the church.  The church is Jesus’ bride.  She is supposed to love and serve her husband, not flirt with the world.  Yet a report released this month by Barna demonstrates evangelicals can’t talk across divides.

More than any other group evangelicals cannot talk to a Muslim (87%), LGBT (87%) or atheist (85%).  “This splintering and polarization of American culture has made it more difficult than ever to have a good conversation, especially about faith,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group.

I’m certain the statistics would be similar for an illegal immigrant.  They would undoubtedly be shockingly high for a person of a different race.  Why?

I thought we were supposed to be like Jesus?  He sat down at a well and spoke to a woman of a different race and religion.  His everyday conversation on water turned to matters of faith and ultimately her salvation (Jn. 4).

I thought Jesus gave us a great commandment and a great commission.  I don’t know how we love someone by never talking to them.  How do we show love by demonizing others made in the image of God?  I certainly don’t know how we are to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded us if we can’t talk to them.  (Mt. 28:19-20).

So what am I missing?  Why can’t we carry on a conversation with our neighbors?  I understand there can be differences of opinion on how to address terrorism and unlawful entry into the United States.  I would never make those issues simplistic.  Rather I think they highlight the need for conversations.  Certainly the same is true of race relations in this country.  But too often I see the church silent on the sidelines not engaged in the conversation.

We just celebrated Easter.  We know the reason for hope.  We are witnesses to love.  How can we not engage in conversations about hope, love and God’s restorative justice?  I think it’s time for the church and Christ followers to stop reflecting the divisiveness of our culture and start reflecting the love of our Savior.  We MUST enter into conversations with our neighbors regardless of what label others put on them.  Jesus labels them his creation and he wants to redeem them by his grace and enter into relationship with them.

Easter destroyed the barrier of hostility.  Jesus put to death man-made barriers so that all could be reconciled to Him (Eph. 2:14-22).  Let us live that truth.  We won’t do it perfectly but it must start with conversations.

June 3,4 the Justice Conference continues a conversation in Chicago on what God’s love and justice look like as we enter the world and live out the great commission through the great commandments.  I will be joined by seminary professors and authors of the new book Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures as well as my friend and colleague Chris Purnell who leads the largest legal aid ministry in America – Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.  Together we are leading an all-day pre-conference entitled Gospel Justice & The Legal System.

This is a time of conversation.  We must talk.  We can learn from one another how to bring the gospel and justice into broken systems, neighborhoods and individual lives.  We must do so humbly with the love of Jesus.  The world is watching.  Let’s change the narrative.  Join me on June 3 for an important justice conversation.

Let’s talk.

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