Once upon a time, my parents lived in a high rise in downtown Miami. The 37th floor actually. Whenever I visited and it rained, there was nothing I liked better than to stand on the balcony and watch the sheets of water move in waves across Biscayne Bay. Standing from that high vantage point, with the bay waters as a backdrop, it was a bit like seeing clouds from an airplane. It’s an entirely different perspective seeing rain from the top down instead of the bottom up.
A few weeks ago, we had some really strong storms that moved through our area in the daytime. Since we have a large open field as our front yard, we often get wind that gusts across the valley in waves as well. In the spring when the hay is tall, it’s wonderful to watch it move like ocean tides, but when it rains as heavily as it did the other day, I’m reminded of standing on the 37th floor watching those sheets of rain and what an epiphany a change in perspective can sometimes be.
Why do I stay so rooted to my point of view so often?
I’ve asked myself that question a lot lately.
Since the Paris attacks, there have been arguments to keep Syrian refugees out of our country as well as most others. And arguments to let them in. I’ve read many articles from both sides, but it’s also been interesting to watch the arguments from friends on Facebook. If you’ve read any of my blog posts before, you’re probably aware that I’m an unapologetic Christian (and if you haven’t, well, now you know…), so many of my friends and family on Facebook are also Christian.
While the Syrian refugee crisis has a pretty clear-cut partisan divide in the political arena, I’m seeing a pretty strong division amongst Christians I know as well.
Sure, I understand that we need to protect our families first and foremost and letting refugees in might undermine our efforts to keep them safe.
But I also see that Jesus tells us not to fear and that we can only share His truth with others by showing them love and compassion.
I have leanings toward one side of the argument, but I’m not so sure that the other side isn’t making very valid points too.
In the Mark 7:6, Jesus challenges the Pharisees:
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
The Pharisees held onto traditions and were reluctant to acknowledge there might be more to the kingdom of God than ritual. Jesus didn’t like that and He called them on it.
If I’m holding to my side of the equation, without seeking to understand the other side, am I not holding onto the tradition of men? Am I honoring God by holding those traditions of thought? Or does God call us to go deeper by entering into relationship with those with whom we disagree?
To be honest with you, I almost have started to dread getting on Facebook lately; the back and forth disagreements about so many political issues has become too heated and… well, uncivil in many cases. The people I know advocating for one side or another are good people. Kind, compassionate people. Yet somehow typing a comment on a keyboard instead of having a real conversation with a so-called “friend” has made for some very hurtful and rude threads of discussion.
Where’s our heart for Jesus in all this dissent?
It’s a lot easier to understand someone else’s point of view when you’re looking them in the eye.
That’s why when I have to have a conversation with my husband or daughter or son or friend, I don’t do it via text, email or phone call if I can help it. I sit down in the room with them. I use their body language, facial expressions and voice tones to give me clues to their mindset. I don’t want to make a situation worse; I want to make it better. Sometimes the only way to do that is to understand their perspective, and not force them to see mine.
Maybe we all need a little more trying to understand someone else’s viewpoint instead of trying to make them understand ours.