You know the arguments by now: take the refugees in as a Good Samaritan gesture, showing love to our neighbors vs. keep the refugees out and protect our domestic neighbors from a potential threat in disguise. Among Christians, both sides have been taken, and both have made compelling arguments for what they believe, so I don’t believe I can add anything to that discussion here. Instead, I want to address how we discuss these things.

Often when divisive issues arise, lines are quickly drawn in the sand and assumptions are made. In this particular issue, the case has been made that as Christians we have to love our neighbors. This was often met with scorn, as many essentially implied that the pro-refugee acceptance crowd is utterly ignorant of the dangers that potentially could arise from such a position. On the other side the question was, how can you claim to be like Jesus and not care about people? (I’m not saying that everyone, or even most, went to such extremes. But if you followed such debates at all, you surely saw them escalate to such a point a number of times.)

But what if the discussion possesses more depth than that? What if, perhaps, people who disagree with you have considered your counterpoint and have developed an answer? You may not agree with their answer once you hear it, but in order to uphold unity it’s so important to give that benefit of the doubt and let people explain themselves. But so often we (myself included, far too often) want to tell rather than ask, to be heard rather than to hear. So we just assume that the other person is either too dumb or evil, and then we dismiss them along with their argument. Far too often I’ve gotten entangled in such online arguments, walked away feeling vindicated that I was right, only to remain completely callous to the fact that a relationship with a brother or sister was greatly damaged in the process.

When these situations arise, we have to be able to process what other people are saying without being dismissive of them. That way we can say a phrase that is almost completely foreign to today’s world – “Even though I disagree, I can see where you’re coming from.” As Aristotle put it, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” And that’s exactly what our Christian duty to our brothers and sisters is when we differ on some non-essential issue.

It’s when we can start putting ourselves in each other’s shoes and seeing others’ opinions in that light that we can say we’re living up to the call in Ephesians 4:1-3, where we’re told to show tolerance for one another in love as we strive to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As we are so quick to remind the world in other issues, tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with someone. It means treating them fairly and kindly even though you don’t agree with them. That principle that Paul set forth by inspiration should be at the heart of all of our interactions with our brethren, particularly when those interactions happen in open forums like Facebook or Twitter. The world will know us by our love, and I believe it’s fair to say that such love comes through most clearly not in our perfect alignment with each other, but in times where we would be pulled apart if we were like everyone else, living without that unity of the Spirit.

To be a light on a hill as His people, we’re going to have to tolerate one another, give each other the benefit of the doubt, emphasize the essentials first, and in all things, love one another.

By Jack Wilkie