The national anthem flag controversy, that does not have anything to do with the flag itself, still rages on. The argument on each side continues to rage on with each side digging their heels in a little more. Mike Pence left a game early. NFL owners are requiring players to stand. Still, the whole reason players are kneeling in the first place is being glossed over. In this post, I plan to continue to answer the question: How do you stand firm in a Kingdom worldview while remaining humble and teachable in posture?
You can view the opening post here. My answer: Resilient communication and more specifically, resilient listening. Step one was saturation. As Christians listen to others, do they send the same message (preferably love) through their verbal responses, non-verbal responses, and even their social media posts? Saturating your life with humility and love is a powerful first step because it communicates a willingness to dialogue about the tough things.
Step 2: Care – meeting immediate physical needs.
After you have done your best to communicate the same consistent message, there is an opportunity to respond–to give someone a hand up, provide a shoulder to cry on, or someone to stand beside and lock arms with. It is at this point in the communication, many begin to share their exact thoughts, usually framed as a problem or complaint, or simply move on from the conversation. Rather than lean in or re-up, they immediately begin to critique the position of the other. Neither response is helpful.
One of the realities of the world is that we do not often see people who are different than us. We complain about them, but we do not often see them. We often see people like us. When we do come in contact with others who are different we exercise a variety of means to cope, some result to judgment and others indifference. Very few take time to actually engage. We must be honest about our attitudes, prejudices, and our tendency to miss people right around us who are different from us.
When we begin to actually see people, most care takes place in the context of ordinary life–eating together, playing together, working together. How? When we simply ask: how can I help?
It is when they respond to this question care begins. St Francis of Assisi said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” One way we communicate that we understand is by meeting immediate needs. Scripture speaks powerfully about the role of God-community in meeting physical needs. Some care may be emotional by simply expressing solidarity with the other person. God desires His people to be soft-hearted and open-handed towards others.
“There will be no poor among you, however, because the Lord is certain to bless you in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance…If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your city gates in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.” – Deut 15:4, 7-8
There are many passages to choose from like Deuteronomy 15:4, 7-8 in the Bible. What is amazing is how there will be marginalized people amongst God’s people, yet the solution for the issue was for the people to act in accordance with God’s generous character.
We see this reproduced in the New Testament church in Acts 2 and 6.
I like the Acts 6 example. I think it aligns well with our contemporary situation. The Hellenistic Jews bring up a tough reality—their widows are being left out in the food distribution. The widows are already marginalized in first-century society. The full inclusion of the Gentiles is a new thing. Their social ostracization is being further complicated by neglect. Peter’s response is to these widows is perfect. He does not say “Would you be quiet?!” By his actions he said, “You know, there is a problem here. Let’s appoint some deacons.” In the role he was in, Peter acted first on behalf of his sisters in Christ. Peter did not dismiss their plight. He did not doubt their claim. He simply cared and made sure they received food.
We are so quick to dismiss the voice of our Christian African-American brothers and sisters about police brutality and injustice—which is why professional athletes are kneeling during the national anthem.
Let us take a step of care as we attempt to resiliently listen in order to stay in tough conversations.
A very real barrier is physical, mental, and emotional needs. We need to address the basic needs (felt and real) of a people or population segment. For an example from the general poor, providing people with safe housing, nutritious food, appropriate clothing, and access to health care and good education are all examples of tangible care. Here’s the kicker: someone has to pay for it. So, who is it going to be?
In the poor’s case, the cost is financial. When it comes to conversations about injustice and mass incarceration the cost may merely be stepping out of our comfort zone and allowing our clean-cut work hard stay out of trouble worldview to be challenged.
There are no silver bullet solutions. There is no magical system or formula to make people feel cared for. In reality, it begins with listening to the person and responding to what they are asking for. The person has to feel cared for or else it is not true care.
Often we are detached from the situation and because we are detached it is easy to dismiss. However, if we stay in the conversation, guided by a biblical precedent, we will realize before anything else is done we will seek to meet the needs of others.
It has been said, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
What steps are you taking to demonstrate care when you encounter someone who thinks different than you?