Please don’t let the title of this post scare you away. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into, “Which party do you follow?” or, “Hey, how about that President Trump…” I have my beliefs, and you have yours. We are all entitled to our own opinions, and this is not a site where we only cater to one and not the other.
So, instead, I’m going to write about what it’s like meeting people with different beliefs, how we should respond and what we should be praying about during the conversation.
Friday night, at dinner, my coordinator, Ettiene, asked two of the Americans about the last election and what actually happens during a general election. We went from the subject of voting to political parties to government corruption. There was a lot of information to digest, and at times I felt like the complete odd one out.
I’m terrible in debates. I love watching them and adding my little two cents, but if it’s ever one of one I’m awful. I just never know where to go with the conversation or how to explain why I believe in a particular topic; unless it’s my faith, that I can do with flying colors!
As I listened to each side, I realized that I was starting to look at the participants a little differently after hearing their thoughts. It was a sad moment and one that I immediately corrected because it shouldn’t be about what a person believes that defines how you treat them. Just because you find out something new about the way someone lives their lives or what they believe in, doesn’t mean that we should take a step back and decrease our interactions with them.
Granted, if a person is toxic or having a negative effect on your life, then you should step away, but not out of resentment. We aren’t called to be hateful and resentful. I feel like this is one of the areas Christians have a hard time understanding. For example, if you’re getting along with someone and have great banter with them but learn that they are gay, does that mean you should stop talking to them and avoid their company? Absolutely not! You should continue to be their friend and try to be a testimony to them.
So, during this conversation/debate, I realized one of two things. The first was that I will encounter a lot of people who have differing thoughts but that shouldn’t define how I treat them. The other; when in that kind of situation, it is paramount to listen to God’s voice and really understand what He’s telling you before you add to the conversation. Just like it says in James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.“
I noticed that when I added my personal thoughts without thinking it through, I got a negative response; whereas, when I listened to God and only said a quick piece from my viewpoint, it was received a little better though of course not pondered upon for very long. I am glad that I listened to God and sat back for most of the conversation because I learned more than I probably would’ve if I’d kept saying what I was thinking. After our discussion, there was a little shift in perspectives, but we were all still the same as before, and life moved on.
Politics is such a touchy subject at the moment that I really recommend you pray about what to say before saying anything. We can get overly passionate and demand our voices to be heard, but that wouldn’t help with anything. In fact, it could make the situation worse and prove the other party’s point. I’m interested in seeing where other conversations go throughout my time in South Africa. I still have three more weeks with these people, so we shall see!