My friend joked on social media about how she had become the person she typically judges on planes — the one who brings the overstuffed bag that takes up an excessive amount of room.
Her recent trip requiring the massive carry-on was likely a rare occurrence, but her witty admission reminded me of how we all can fall prey to criticizing others about situations we don’t understand or haven’t experienced.
It might be related to families or communities and could involve how decisions are made or why a person thinks, acts or lives in a certain way.
Sometimes it’s about things a person can control; sometimes it’s not.
And unfortunately we also find it happening as a way to earn someone’s trust or support.
Consider the motive
For many, publicly and loudly criticizing others for pretty much anything and everything has become the go-to style of marketing an agenda.
We are watching it play out as negative reports are being spread about the motives of those seeking to save the lives of unborn children.
The attempt to villainize pro-life advocates instills fear and misunderstanding in those who see abortion differently.
Of course, we know the goal of pro-lifers is to protect and value life — which includes striving to ensure the mother and father are educated, equipped and resourced to give their baby a fighting chance to become the person God intends. It also means valuing all life (read more from Tony Evans here).
But with skewed messaging, the pro-life efforts can be misinterpreted, preventing many from finding their way to the caring arms of those who want to show the parents a life-giving, sustainable path forward.
At the same time, it has been encouraging to watch those leading in the fight for life model humble and respectful communication efforts, especially following the June 24 historic and long-awaited decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
‘Time to shine’
As people of faith across the nation, we know it’s our time to shine. We are built for missions and ministries and helping the hurting, so expanding our efforts with pregnancy centers, foster care ministries and adoption efforts will be an automatic response (read related stories here, here, here, here, here and here).
Still, the work won’t be easy. Along with the energy it will take to change the conversation and help those in crisis realize the hope and help available, we also must work beyond the immediate and find ways to decrease the number finding themselves in crisis in the first place.
How do we do this exactly? I don’t know, but I’m hopeful we will dig in deeper and commit to finding solutions and making a difference.
Working together will be vital, and that sometimes gets sticky when we have disagreements within our own family of faith.
I can be a bit idealistic at times and while the denominational culture is tense in other areas right now, I’m not ready to give up on Southern Baptists.
I believe the majority of Southern Baptists are kind, loving, grace-filled, thoughtful, concerned, dedicated followers of Christ.
I’m confident the majority of us are passionate about our faith and committed to growing closer to Christ daily.
At the same time, some voices (on all sides) are a bit louder than others and, in some cases, are taking their passion to a level that borders on an ends-justifies-the-means mentality.
Some also paint those who disagree with them as evil, even those within the faith family.
Focused on the mission
I saw some of this play out during the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim in June when varying groups shared the heart of their missions, which in all cases boiled down to loving and serving God and winning people to Christ.
Those speaking all indicated a desire to maintain a sound theological foundation. However, the way the various groups want to go about their Christian service differs and has the potential to cause increased division if we allow it.
Is it possible all of us in Southern Baptist life love God, believe the Bible and want to share Christ with those who don’t know Him?
Is it possible to work together and remain a unified body even if our individual passions and ministry focuses differ?
The world around us is desperate for hope and help — and we have the answer. Staying focused on the mission is the key.