Have you ever changed the thinking of someone in a social media debate? I rarely see in-person debates sway a person’s opinion, let alone an online debate. Yet Christians have joined the social media debates (or, more likely, online wars) of opinion.
When God incarnate made His earthly presence, He entered into a world of debate. The citizens of the Jewish nation all wanted the same thing: freedom from Rome. The Jews developed factions based on opinions concerning the various possible solutions to their occupation.
Considering the people Jesus invited into His circle of influence, we can see that Jesus wasn’t oblivious to the debate in Israel. Jesus included James and John, the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), who believed in the violent overthrow of Rome. Then there is Matthew, the tax collector (Matt. 9:9). He didn’t even keep fighting against Rome; he joined Rome. In between the two extremes were the Jewish religious leaders trying to work with and against Rome.
It would make sense that with this much debate and conflict that Jesus would have spent a significant amount of time expressing His position and debating against one side or the other in the conflict. Yet, there are only a few minor references to Jesus even acknowledging the debate was taking place. How could Jesus separate Himself from the constant battle while still bringing individuals from both extremes of the debate into His community?
Would Jesus Pick a Side?
As I consider our current struggle of existing with COVID-19 and all its variants, I wonder how Jesus would handle the debate. Would Jesus pick a side? Would He get on social media and post opinions? How would Jesus bring the church, His body here on planet Earth, together when so divided by “facts” and “opinions”?
The Jewish community had a confession of their faith, the Shema, that was part of their daily worship experience: “Love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:5). Jesus stated this as the greatest of God's commands. He then followed up with, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). While the Jews bickered over the oppression of Rome, Jesus sought to redirect the Jewish focus to what it meant to love God and love each other. While the Jews fought against each other over salvation from Rome, Jesus brought eternal salvation from sin.
How Would Jesus Respond to People Today?
Do we need to be redirected by God to understand the love of God? The apostle John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16, NIV). In 1 John 3:16, John wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (NIV). And in 1 John 3:1, he added, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (NIV).
Three words come to mind — compassion, respect, and value — in following God’s invitation to love others. Every human being is born in the image of God. You have a personal story that drives your response to life. Having compassion means, I listen to the story that has impacted you. Respecting each person as a child of God is beautiful and challenging.
We are equal in value to God. We are equally God’s children. When I look at you, do I see my equal?
If I see you as my equal and God’s child, I won’t attack you online or in person. I can disagree but don’t have to attack. God help us learn to love as He first loved us.
Nate Elias is pastor of the Piedmont Park Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States.