Thanksgiving is here, and that means family members who may not normally gather will assemble around tables to give thanks. This joyous opportunity, though, is often marred when disagreements and debates arise.
From politics to sports to religion, there are no shortage of topics these days that can divide people quickly. Christians are not immune to the temptation toward sharp division and disagreement.
That’s why it’s important to plan ahead for how you are going to act or react when hot topics like the media and President Trump, or the 2018 midterm elections, or the college football playoffs come up.
In this social-media saturated age, Christians are increasingly participating in the uncivil discourse and often give in to the simmering anger so often seen on Twitter and Facebook.
That is why it was encouraging that at the recent BGCO Annual Meeting, messengers approved a resolution that spoke to the heart of this topic. Resolution number four, which was unanimously approved, called “for Christian civility amid a hostile culture.” The resolution stated, “We… recognize that obedience to Jesus’ commands calls for a consistent lifestyle of kindness and civility in our interactions with the world around us, both Christians and non-Christians alike.”
The resolution went on to say, “Followers of Jesus are called to be a light in a dark place and a witness to the glorious Gospel. Inasmuch, we call for Oklahoma Baptists to remain kind, cordial and civil in both their online social media presence and interpersonal interactions.”
As good as this is, it’s one thing to say people ought to act like this, and it’s another to act like it. What are some ways to have our conversations more seasoned with grace this holiday season and beyond?
I can think of three things:
1) Wait. These days, people are slow to listen and quick to speak, which is the opposite of the biblical command (James 1:19). When you feel the urge “go off” on a rant, in person or online, just hit the pause button. Give it some time and see if being slower to speak will make you more reasonable.
2) Win people, not arguments. Jesus did not call us to win arguments; He called us to win followers to Him (Matt. 4:19). You may be right on whatever issue comes up, and the other person is wrong or off-base. Yet, you can contend for your views and biblical virtues, be selective in what topics you wade into; and don’t ever have a non-Christ-like manner that wins the argument but alienates the person.
3) Unplug. Media and the cable news industry thrives upon people getting worked up. This holiday season, don’t go down these paths of temptation (Psalm 1). If you put down your phone, turn the TV off, and spend time just around the people God has put in your path—including family but also neighbors and people in need—the never-ending controversies won’t suck you into a vortex of anger and anxiety.
While table talk at Thanksgiving presents some perilous conversation pitfalls, it also provides some of the best opportunities to grow closer to the Lord and each other, if we will be wise with our words and rely on the Lord more to help us. Happy Thanksgiving!