At a time of intense division, how can Christians walk straight in the social fog? My dad, who lived through the turbulent late 1960s and contributed to a degree to that turbulence, recently told me he cannot remember the country being as divided as it is now. Like most Americans, I care deeply about our country. I don’t like to see the violence. I can hear the pain in the many voices, even the voices I may not agree with. How can I, a Christian, find my way through the fog?
Miroslav Volf, a Croatian theologian who is no stranger to societal upheaval, said, “When identity is forged primarily through the negative process of the rejection of the beliefs and practices of others, violence seems unavoidable, especially in situations of conflict. We have to push others away from ourselves and keep them at a distance, and we have to close ourselves off from others to keep ourselves pure of their taint.” Too many people today find their identity not positively in who they are, but negatively in who they are not like. Conservatives are against everything liberal, and liberals are against everything conservative. Group A defines themselves by not being Group B. The violence seems inevitable.
Now, perhaps, more than ever Christians need to embrace their peculiar identity in this world. They are not defined by what they are not like. They are defined by who they are in Christ.
Peter, at a time when Christians were verbally berated and sometimes arrested and killed, tells his fellow Christians to cling to their identity in Christ. It is not them verse the Greco-Roman culture, but Christ in them winning all things to himself. To give into such sectarian violence, Peter insinuates, will only compromise their witness to Christ. Rather, Peter says, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Christians are to remember the dove-like qualities of their Lord.
Dear Christian, don’t get turned around by the fog. Remember who you are in Christ. Bless those who revile, for such did Christ for you as he hung from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”