In a recent episode of Lead Stories Podcast, Efrem Smith noted, “Christians need to fight harder for their true selves, their true identity.” It is my firm belief that taking this step–to begin the fight for our true and full identity as “ineffable, unique, and unrepeatable image[s] of God”—will free us to see ourselves and others with the eyes of Jesus. In these tense times, as much as ever, walking as fully upright and whole light-bearers for the Kingdom of God is our call.
Our news outlets and various social media feeds spill over with division, conflicts near and far, and the constant undertones of fear and division. As “Practicing Christians” what is our response?
A friend and I discussed in the past week that taking in everything right now leaves us feeling unsteady, shaky even. While we agreed that there is “nothing new under the sun”, the clatter manifests louder and stronger because we are so connected through the internet. The noise and chaos deafens. We feel dazed and confused, unable to move or engage. “This little light of mine” seems an inadequate offering in response.
I spent some time making a list of places to start. Some of these practices come from my own inner work. Some of the steps are things I’ve observed and collected from other folks who are courageously putting their faith into action. After silence and much prayer, perhaps we could move forward with a few and then more of these “steps of shalom.” Taking any small step is a movement toward more and more small steps to advance the Kingdom of God. May it be so.
Disengage to People Engage
- Turn off 24-hour news sources. Limit yourself to an hour of news per day.
- Take a social media fast, for a day or a week or a month, or longer.
- When you have extra time from fasting from social media interaction, purpose to spend time with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Be intentional about real human interaction.
- Go to a town forum, school board meetings, or a local demonstration. Go and be present, observe, listen, learn. Pray.
- Have at least one friend (2 or 3 would be better) who will ask you questions that challenge you and help you see things from another perspective.
- Sit down with a friend or relative who votes differently than you do. Discover how much you have in common, the ways your stories intertwine.
- Go to church with a friend or family member who attends a different denomination than you do. Go to listen and learn, not to critique and judge.
Expand Your Mind (and let God renew it)
- Acquaint yourself with the Psalms of Lament. Add the spiritual practice of lament to your weekly disciplines. This is a way to connect with God with your tears and confusion and questions. Lament is not an excuse to complain and gripe, though God is big enough to handle that. This ancient practice allows us to take our deepest aches to the Almighty One. It may save us from damaging ourselves and others with whom we have relationship.
- Make a list of issues, eras in history, people groups, or laws that you feel ignorant about. Commit to learning about them, one at a time. Go slow if you need to.
- When taking in a news story or seeking to learn about the issues from the list you made, commit to finding at least 5 different sources from a variety of places, with 2-3 of these being from sources you wouldn’t usually read or agree with.
- Keep a small notepad where you can make a list of things that you learn from others who are “different” from you, people you were surprised to learn and gain from because of your differences.
- Read authors who have a different race/culture/nationality than your own.
- Read authors who have different theology than you do. There are sound theologians who love God with their whole being who have disagreed about a number of issues. This is not new. It doesn’t separate us at the center, which is Christ.
- Learn a new language.
- Re-acquaint yourself with geography.
- Learn and practice active listening.
- Practice good communication when sharing your perspective. Use the phrases “I feel” or “In my experience” to begin.
- Resist labels. We end up placing ourselves and others into small, boxed packages. It limits us from seeing ourselves and others more fully.
- Download the app “Countable.” Be informed past a brief news story about Capitol Hill. Notify your representatives with your voice and vote.
- Learn the difference between sympathy and empathy. 
Let God Grow You from the Inside-Out
- Embrace the reality that a thing doesn’t have to be your fault in order for you to see and empathize with another’s pain.
- Practice saying kind things, making kind gestures. Be mindful to find the fingerprints of God on every mere mortal.
- Resist fear.
- Don’t be afraid to stand firmly by your convictions. While standing by your convictions, listen more than, or as much as, you speak. Be gracious to others in expressing your convictions.
- Be humble enough to keep learning and growing. We don’t arrive at a finish line in this way.
- When reading news, articles, opinions, social media posts, try to read to understand and see from someone else’s perspective.
- When reading or listening to someone, listen for the purpose of understanding, with the intention to learn. Consider how you would want someone to listen to your words, which reflect your personhood.
- Live a Pro-Life life. Be for people, for the good of others. Be for the reconciliation of God to those who were created wonderfully and fearfully in the womb. Be for those who now have life outside of the womb.
- Don’t be too proud to say, “Please forgive me.” In the words of Cheryl Yoast in Remember the Titans, “This ain’t no time to be proud.”
- Don’t be afraid to be seen with “sinners.” Jesus’ reputation was blown by his association with the marginalized. And who are we kidding, really? Isn’t that really just being seen with our own kind?