We live in a strange and interesting time. Having lived for 70 years in the South I’ve been blessed to see some massive changes in society, most of which has been good. Many of the walls between people groups that were a normal part of life when I was younger are now seen as totally odd and ridiculous. Linda and I went along with one of our daughters and son-in-laws to see the movie “Hidden Figures” a few days ago. It is a tremendous movie and a time and situation that most everyone who was alive at the time thought they knew all about. But the hidden figures involved were people that I had never heard of at all, yet were deeply involved in the whole space movement. To watch the separate restroom and water fountains for the different races brought back memories that I had buried along the way. I was thinking during the movie that sitting there together watching the movie were all different races of people, sitting next to each other and applauding the movie when it was over. Just that reality would have been impossible at the time the movie was telling about.
Lots of bridges have been built along the way that demanded many walls had to come down. Thank God we no longer face the situation of separate schools, separate people and separate lives. Thank God that many of the things that people like Martin Luther King fought for have now become a reality and are seen as the norm. I have no doubt that 50 years from now people will look back and think that some of the things that are normal in human relationships today are just as odd and ridiculous as what we now see from 50 years ago in our own time. I know there are still distances to travel and improvements to be made.
But something that makes no sense to me is that many seem intent on rebuilding the very walls that many have worked so hard to tear down. When our mindset is to demonize everyone that doesn’t see things the same way we do then there is something dreadfully wrong inside us. Sincere and honest people reach different conclusions and see things in different ways. Seldom is it the case that either side of any issue, whether political or religious or whatever else it may be, has all the truth or correct thinking on their side. But when our attitude is that we are not going to listen to anyone that doesn’t see things the same way we do, it not only demonstrates prejudice and arrogance but it means that we can never learn better or see anything different from what we already see. There is a reason God had James to write, “Let every person we swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.” But we seem to have put the passage in reverse. We have far too many who are swift to speak, slow to listen and quick to get mad.
How can churches, families, cities, states, areas and even countries learn to get along and work together for the good of all? There really is only one way and it is certain many will reject it because it doesn’t fit their mindset. Listen to God’s answer as he led Paul to write the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 beginning in verse 14. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
I can’t do much to bring any kind of unity or healing to the nation except to pray that God will change the hearts of people. But I can make a difference in my family, friends and people I’m around by being one who is ready to listen, love and share with people so see things very differently from me. Closed minds never learn better and never change for the better. Everything they read or hear is only to substantiate what they already believe. What if we all opened the door to talk honestly and listen intently to someone very different from us trying to understand where they are coming from? I suspect that we would soon see that many of the conclusions we had about those who feel differently from us would change drastically. I don’t mean that we would come to agree with them on everything. I just mean that if both listened respectfully, we would see that the carraciture we have developed of those who are different from us was a figment of our imagination rather than anything real.