Sometimes in the Embree house we have debates. No, that’s not code for “fights.” It actually is debates. We even time them. Two minutes to make your case, 30 seconds to question, 30 seconds to defend and then switch sides. Each participant gets a 1 minute conclusion. So, see…actual debates.
I know that sounds a little strange, but hear me out. Somehow, in our home, we have managed to raise two beautiful, strong, intelligent daughters of two very different political persuasions. Now, I’m not sure they realize they have “political persuasions”. I think they just think they have opinions about how life should go. But as parents, we sometimes chuckle when our conservative daughter makes a comment and our more left-leaning daughter gets all fired up. We’ve debated everything from government subsidies for small-town grocery stores to whether or not education is a fundamental right or a limited privilege. It’s quite interesting to hear their takes on things, without our input.
So, why do we do this?
Is there a greater purpose being fulfilled by this seemingly academic activity?
We think so and we think it’s something that is vitally important for our children, for us, for all of us to understand.
My girls often disagree. They don’t see the world the same way. They’ve been raised in the same home, with the same parents, and the same life experiences. But, for whatever reason, they have formed unique ways of seeing the world that often clash with the other.
My girls often agree. They both love Jesus. They both love family. They both love chocolate, The Flash, and goofing off when they are supposed to be doing the dishes. And, most importantly, they both love each other.
They disagree. But they still love each other.
Friends, we are at a time in our country where our children need to learn from us that we, the adults, may disagree but we still love each other.
They need to see us share our hearts with grace and walk away from conversations saying, “I love you” or “I respect you” or “I see you.” They need to understand that while it is fine to care about and speak to these issues that face us in the world today, in our country today, in our homes today, on social media today, it is not okay to end the conversation with division, strife, and hate.
You see, we are more than our opinions. If we find that our opinions are robbing us of our peace and joy throughout the day, then we need to examine how we are sharing them with others. Because as Christians, we are called to more.
When I was a kid and fought with my brothers or sister (this time it really was a fight, not a debate), my mom would often make us write this verse.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18
As a kid, I thought that meant I couldn’t get mad. As an adult, I think it’s a little more than that. Because this verse is embedded in a much bigger picture that Paul is painting. He’s not saying, “Don’t have convictions. Don’t get upset. Don’t disagree with anyone.” He’s saying that in every situation, there’s a bigger picture.
Love Above All
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”
We may define what is “good” differently (especially politically), but we must love sincerely. We may not always agree with others but we always honor them and remain devoted to love. Our zeal should primarily be for serving the Lord, even if other things stir our spirits.
Walk Before Talk
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Opinions are one thing, but we are called to actions of grace and love. We are to be about the work of the kingdom, always, regardless of political climates. Regardless of what others say or do to us, names that are called, attitudes that are exhibited, we are challenged to not respond in like tone; we are called to respond with grace and love. That is seeking peace.
Others Before Self
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
See others, truly see them. Try to understand how and what they are feeling. Don’t think that any of us has the corner on “reality”, rather, seek to understand WHY someone feels the way that they do.
Grace Before Grievance
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
If someone uses language that is filled with vitriol, respond with words seasoned with grace. As far as it depends on us, be kind to other people, even in disagreement.
This passage of Scripture ends by saying, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” There is only one true good. Jesus tells us that “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19). And we know that God is LOVE.
It is our hope as parents that we are teaching our children that they don’t always have to agree with each other, but they do have to honor each other and love each other. It is also our hope that we are modeling this for them in our interactions with the world around us and with each other. We don’t always succeed at that. We sometimes fail. We sometimes say things that days, months or years later we think, “I wish I’d said that differently.” But it is our hope and our heart to help our children live in the tension well. To end each conversation on our part with “They disagree. But they still love each other.”
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About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and Seedbed