Sometimes when I’m scanning through the news and views of Other People I Know, I sometimes shake my head and wonder, “Can that really be what you really think? How could you say something like that? How could you actually believe that? Why would you even want to think that way?” Most likely, they’ve had a similar reaction to at least three or eight of the things I’ve posted or been quoted as saying. There’s certainly been no shortage of Things to Argue About in the last, oh, I don’t know: six or twelve millennia?
Maybe there were some advantages to the relative obscurity of personal perspective back before the digital age. At least it wasn’t all the rage to hang all of our opinions across the door or in the front yard or on the bumper of our pickup truck. Maybe it took at least a cursory bit of effort to find out what others thought about the president, the local legislator, or the neighbors. Now, it seems that we wear our opinions in bold font and as if they were more important and more defining than how we treat other folks and whether or not we keep our word.
One of the dangers with this is that we short circuit the relationship-building phase. Before we get to know someone well enough to realize that we have a great deal in common, we’ve already sorted them into the cull pile because they don’t agree with us on gummie bears, gun control, space exploration or bike paths. No interest in getting to know them now. Unless our house catches fire or our grandchild disappears. Then, at least for a very needful while, we’re willing to look beyond those opinions in exchange for desperately needed help.
One of the dangers of opinion-based friendship—particularly from the perspective of someone who persistently tries to foster unity among believers—is that these sortings seem to ignore the very things that are supposed to keep us together. Things like faith, hope and love. Things like mercy, grace and compassion. Things like justice, truth and righteousness. True justice and righteousness, not facsimiles thereof.
Such things are not exclusive to any political party, demographic, ethnic, or religious group, or nationality. And they are more important to me than your bumper sticker. Unless, of course, your bumper sticker indicates that bumper stickers are more important.