Font Size » + | -By President Randall A. Bach We live in a contentious time. Tempers are in an agitated state. Language is caustic and condescending. Willingness to reflectively listen to differing views is rare. Television and the Internet play to and stoke fears into raging fires of anger. Leaders descend into childishly pompous conduct and display scalding temperaments, and followers parrot their example. The history of our nation is filled with seasons of hot and quarrelsome debate as we grappled with issues and direction. The war in Vietnam and Watergate were eras in recent history of contentious divisiveness. However, something is different about today. The depth and breadth of anger and the unrestrained expression of it even by Christians, is I believe, unparalleled in memory. Are you happy about the current temperature and prickly demeanor of American culture? If not, what can you and I do about it? Do not contribute to or be a carrier of the anger virus. Paul wrote to the Romans (12:18): “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” “As far as it depends on you” emphasizes that you and I are responsible for what we do and say and for how we interact with people. That does not mean we are to hide from vigorous debate about matters of importance. It does mean we do not get to wash our hands of responsibility for our conduct and how we communicate. We do not get to justify, “Well, I didn’t start it; I was only responding.” We are accountable to God, including when we think we are speaking on His behalf. How do we live at peace when we are surrounded with strife and contention that wants to draw us into a valley of fear and anger? I suggest it begins with biblical perspective: Be Aware of Who Your Enemy Is Satan is our ultimate adversary. He has blinded many people who are doing his bidding. But those people are still God-loved souls, and we must remember to love them as well. When we love someone, even if we vehemently disagree, it affects how we think about and react to them. We may find their positions or arguments revolting and disgusting, counter-God in every way. They are blinded souls! We do not confuse destroying people with destroying arguments. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. (2 Corinthians 5:16, NLT) We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4, NLT) Be Grace-filled The worthiness of a cause does not justify being mouthy, abrasively tearing down people with whom we disagree or accusing them of what we do not know to be accurate. What kind of witness is that? How does that advance the cause of Christ? It does not. It only further inflames and elevates the temperature of discourse and sullies the reputation of Christians. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NLT) Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:6, NLT) Be Christ’s Ambassador We are citizens of heaven before we are adherents of a political party. The Word should shape our politics rather than politics shaping our values, standards, and conduct. An ambassador continually considers how what he or she says or does will reflect upon the nation the ambassador represents. Our disposition, our word choices, and our winsomeness must all represent heaven. Perhaps there was a war-time place for General Patton, the crusty, foul-mouthed, and abusive commander in World War II. But he is not our model, nor are other bombastic media stars whose mission is to rile and antagonize people (and build ratings). Jesus is our model! And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, NLT) If you struggle with embracing and walking out these biblical perspectives, then perhaps it is time to evaluate who and what are influencing you. To whom are you listening? Voices of humility or voices of condescension? With what are you filling your mind and heart? God’s Word and godly instruction or attack commentary? What about social media? Are you being an ambassador or an attacker? There have been several variations of this quote, attributable to a number of people: “Getting into a fight with argumentative people online is like wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pigs like the mud.” Do you need to make some changes? You and I do not live in a vacuum, ignorant to the world around us. We cannot live in isolated caves. No, we are to engage the world, but we are to do so as knowledgeable, wise, temperate, Spirit-filled and Spirit-seasoned ambassadors of heaven – as far as it depends on us.