Where Do We Go From Here?

I don’t know about you, but the political season exhausted me. And then, just when I thought it was over, a candidate won and then all the poo hit the proverbial fan.

There are so many posts going around social media either against or in support of President elect Donald Trump. This isn’t a post about politics. This is a post about being a good neighbor.

When Jesus’ said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” He wasn’t giving a suggestion. He said it was a command. The second greatest command is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

So the question is, “Who is my neighbor?”

We tend to think of neighbors as those that live close to us. For many of us it’s the people we ignore on a regular basis as we hustle into our homes. Most of us barely know our neighbors, and so we can’t love them well. But that’s another blog post.

With the dawn of social media our neighbors are no longer people we live next too. Our neighbors are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

We potentially see and interact with our social media neighbors with more regularity than those who live next door to us.

With the dawn of social media we have invited people into our lives, and in return get glimpse into theirs. What used to be taboo conversation is now posted for the world to see. It was not that long ago that friends didn’t share who they voted for. It was a private matter. Not any more.

With this last election social media friends have been hidden or unfriended at an alarming rate. We aren’t very tolerant of people that view the world differently than us.

The word is tolerant not tolerhate.

I love the quote by pastor Larry Osborne,

“Tolerance is a trait we should excel in. If tolerance means granting people the right to be wrong, we of all people ought to be know for our tolerance.” – Larry Osborne

I write to a mostly churched group of people. For those of us in the church we need to be amazing neighbors. Being a neighbor doesn’t mean only liking the people that are just like you. Being a good neighbor means loving the least of these. Being a good neighbor means putting up with political views that are radically different than yours. Being a good neighbor is about seeking to understand the “Why” behind someone’s post. Being a good neighbor is about reading a friend’s post to understand where they are coming from and not just responding or dismissing their opinion.

Being a good neighbor is about actually reading someone’s post, and not just overreacting to the title of the post, and then posting a comment that will start a war.

Being a good neighbor is not gloating when you get your way. Being a good neighbor is not dismissing someone else’s pain. Being a good neighbor is not only reading posts that support your current way of seeing the world.

It saddens me that the world hasn’t changed much since Jesus’ day. It saddens me even more that we’ve had over 2,000 years to learn what it means to be a good neighbor and often we are the worst neighbors on the social media block.

Empathy is desperately needed in our world today. The Church should be leading the way in this. Empathy doesn’t mean we agree with everyone. It doesn’t mean that all opinions are right. Empathy doesn’t mean we  hide the truth.

Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s about understanding and not agreeing.

I may not agree with my friend’s post, but I can be the type of neighbor that seeks to understand who they are.

After all it was Jesus who said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

When I share a post it’s nice to have people agree with me, but it’s equally nice to have those that disagree still treat me with respect. That’s what I want, so I am called to do that for others.

We don’t have to agree to still be friends. We don’t have to agree to still be friends, but we do have to show mutual respect. That’s being a good neighbor.

In light of the current state of things online I offer five ways to be a good neighbor towards your social media friends.

  1. Reject generalizations. Whenever you group a whole section of people together you are making an “Us vs. Them” argument. Generalizations don’t change anyone’s mind. They simply fuel the fire for already skewed opinions. Reject generalizations by not making them in your posts. Reject generalizations by not sharing posts that only pit your side vs. the other side.
  2. Associate intentionally with different opinions. I get it. The reaction is to hide people who think differently than you. But how can we be salt of the earth if we don’t know the people we are trying to impact? How can we show empathy when we group everyone who disagrees with us as “idiots,” “ignorant,” or “evil?” You may not be able to like their post, but you can read with the intention of better understanding who they are.
  3. Counter “Us” vs. “Them” thinking. How do you do this? Well, you have to actually get to know someone whose opinion is different than you. What you will find is that not all liberals are evil, or all conservatives are ignorant. What you will find is people don’t fit nicely into our stereotypes. You counter “Us” vs. “Them” thinking by respectfully sharing opinions that destroy generalizations. I tried to do this respectfully this week. I know the person who posted what they did was hurting. I tried my best to acknowledge that. I tried my best to encourage this Facebook friend. I also tried to respectfully show them that not all evangelicals fit into her broad stroke. I didn’t pick a fight. I tried to show empathy, and I offered a different perspective. She took it very well.
  4. When you can’t stand someone’s post pray for them. Jesus said to pray for our enemies, not hide them on Facebook. What if you prayed for the person you disagreed with? It’s hard to be angry with someone you are praying for. But maybe that’s why we don’t pray. We would rather be angry than actually make a difference.
  5. When you strongly disagree ask questions before you rebuke. Christians are right up there with the worst when it comes to jumping to conclusions and casting stones at anyone who we disagree with. We have enough opinions. What we don’t have is enough questions. When you ask questions you often find that your assumptions were way off base. Most of us don’t take the time to ask questions. We jump to conclusions because we would rather hear ourselves talk than respect our neighbors. Have you ever had a wrong idea or opinion? Of course you have. We all have. Asking how someone came to their conclusion can help you know how to engage them in a respectful manner.

What are your thoughts? What would you add to this list? 

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Rob Shepherd

I am the full-time husband of a wonderful woman! I love being married! We are proud parents to twins, Hayden and Reese. In my spare time I am the pastor of Next Level Church. I have a relationship with God and it is an adventure. Oh and I wrote a book. It's called Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.

6 Comments

  1. Randal
    November 15, 2016

    So glad to see a new blog! And what a comeback!

    There has been so much venom spewed over this election that Facebook has been practically toxic. I agree with all of your points. We do far too much listening to respond rather than listening to understand.

    If I were to add anything it would be to replace “You” statements with “I feel” statements. Explain your feelings rather than applying labels to your neighbor. I also like “what I hear you say is _____, did I understand you correctly?” to seek clarification of each others intention.

    Reply
  2. Karen
    November 15, 2016

    So awesome to see you blogging to the common peeps again. Missed it. Good stuff for sure. Empathy. So important. I never really thought about hiding people on social media. That makes a lot of sense. I think I have scared off quite a few with all of my evangelistic ways. I guess I would add that God has no favorites. He loves us all equally. Some people think more from the head while others think from the heart. Some are self-confident. Some are God-confident. Some are introverts and some are extroverts. My prayer is to bode off any self-righteousness and replace it with Jesus’s attitude of humbleness and empathy– focusing on understanding the other person. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    Reply
  3. Lauren Cory
    November 16, 2016

    Great post. I definitely had to “unfollow” or “hide” two FB friends in the last week or two because their posts were filled with so much hate. They are Christians, but I didn’t feel I had a close enough friendship with them to approach them about it. Confronting someone without the established relationship sometimes creates more conflict. After your blog, I will take the challenge to pray for them more, and try to step into their shoes a little more as I read their posts. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Reply
    • Lauren Cory
      November 16, 2016

      P.S. Thank goodness your blog is back!

      Reply
  4. Mary W
    November 16, 2016

    Great points, Rob. I like the idea of praying for those who hold different views than ours, and agreeing to not let those difference close down our relationships.

    Reply
  5. November 30, 2016

    I like your finishing touches on #4 and #5. Yes, we should definitely pray for those we disagree with, even if we do know them, or thought we knew them. There could be something going on inside them that we are not aware of. Sometimes we don’t see with spiritual eyes, only “Hulk Smash” eyes, especially when we post political stuff. As a Christian I try my best not to post anything political, as I don’t even understand politics anyways.

    Reply

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