This morning as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed I noticed the question of the day from Relevant magazine.
It was simple enough: “What’s your least favorite movie?”
As a big movie fan I curiously clicked on the comments to see what people were saying.
Not surprisingly I was shocked by a few of the responses, but once I got over that initial moment of dumbfoundment (I’m making up my own words today) I decided to click on “load more comments” (I was reading the thread on my phone) to see what other movies people hated that I loved or how many hated movies there were that I too loathed.
What I began to notice pretty quickly was that regardless of the film, there’s someone out there in the world who will absolutely hate it.
As I scrolled through the list of responses there were a few usual suspects (no pun intended, but a great film), i.e. anything with Vin Diesel (although I suspect those people forgot that he was in Saving Private Ryan). But what really stood out to me was the sheer diversity of films on the list and it quickly occurred to me that everybody hates everything.
Ok, maybe not literally.
Obviously, all of us have movies that we love.
But whether it was an Oscar winner or a box office flop there’s someone out there convinced it was a terrible movie.
The same is true in almost every corner of our lives.
As the political conventions of the last couple of weeks have made abundantly clear, it doesn’t matter how right you think you are about an issue, there will always be somebody out there who disagrees and hates you for it.
The same is true for sports, music, art, and, of course, the church.
There is probably no arena in which we get more passionate about the things we love and hate than religion. (Although, for some, sports might be a close second)nThere your opinion isn’t an issue of taste, it’s a matter of eternal consequence.
Or at least so we think.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid this battle royale. No matter how kind, compassionate, generous, or noble you might be someone somewhere will hate you for what you believe and they’ll be sure to let you know about it.
After all, they hated Jesus. Hated him so much they had him crucified. If they hated Jesus, you and I don’t stand a chance at avoiding the critics.
Trying to do so is just a waste of time. No matter how much you work to avoid them, you eventually have to cross a bridge in your journey where inevitably a troll will pop out to scare you.
In our ever increasingly small world where social media and the internet all but force us into continual engagement with friends, family, and perfect strangers I think the challenge we face is not how to avoid those who hate us and the things we believe, but how to respond to their criticism.
Some of them will be strangers, others will be friends, but how we responded to our critics speaks a lot to how well we are incarnating Jesus to the world.
We could certainly lash out irrationally with a profanity laced tired of righteous condemnation and believe me, there are plenty of times where I would love to do that. But being a disciple of Christ is something we are going to take seriously, then that’s probably not a viable option.
That’s not to say that the alternative is for us to simply “lay down and take it.”
Far from it.
Rather, I think we have to learn how to better filter criticism. We have to learn how to distinguish between the sort of helpful criticism that enables us to see a side of things we may have missed and the unhelpful criticism that was never intended to do anything more than tear us down.
Tragically, there doesn’t seem to be space for multiple sides of an issue. Instead, we only have the “good guys” and the “bad guy” and of course, we’re always the good guys. Which means, no matter how gracious, level headed, or even “right” you may be, those who think themselves your opponents, will never be able to see you (and your ideas) as nothing more than an enemy to be vanquished.
So how do we deal with such irrational opposition and criticism?
We pray for the grace to see our critics as people who, like us, are created in the image of God. We pray this way so that we can find the strength to treat them better than they treat us, even if that love never sees any reciprocity.
We debate vigorously, but speak peacefully to those who spew rhetorical violence, knowing that more often than not we are not their real target.
We learn to recognize the irrational vitriol of those who care nothing about us and want only to use us as platform to further their agenda. We recognize it and ignore it.
And when all else fails and we’ve reached the end of our rope, we follow the advice of Jesus, shake the dust off our feet, and walk away.
It may have been that we were actually the ones in the wrong, but if civil discourse cannot be had, there is no point in staying around to chat.
These things are certainly a lot easier said then done.
I’m still trying to learn how to do them myself.
But if we are going to have the strength to answer the call of Jesus to incarnate the gospel to the world, we can’t afford to waste our energy fighting battles that can never be won.
Grace and peace,