My son and I were flipping through tv stations recently while visiting my in-laws, and we landed on a catchy tune on the country music channel. The little guy wanted to dance, so we listened to the song, and the lyrics kind of fascinated me. It was “Biscuits” by Kacey Musgraves: “Just hoe your own row and raise your own babies,” she said, “Smoke your own smoke and grow your own daisies. Mend your own fences and own your own crazy. Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.”

There sure are a lot of people out there spewing their opinions and harsh judgements on anyone and everyone, and it’s gotten pretty ridiculous. Especially now that the internet is such an integral part of our lives, because it’s a lot easier to shout somebody down when you don’t have to look them in the eye. I’m not a relativist, but as I age (and parent) I am coming to understand that a lot fewer things in life are black and white, and in a lot of ways we do just need to be ourselves and do what works for us, regardless of the opinions of others. Somebody’s always going to disapprove.

“Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to [love all of God’s family] more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,  so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12

The song makes some good points. We need to stop being out to tear people down who do things differently than we do. We need to own our own imperfections rather than attacking others in an attempt to legitimize ourselves. We need to try to live peacefully with each other and be a lot kinder. Point taken, Kacey.

Yet something about the song wasn’t quite sitting right with me, and I don’t think it was just the convicting fact that I could make some more progress in those departments. I thought about all the opinions that come through my Facebook feed. Posts aspousing what parenting technique I should be following, how I’m not buckling my children into their carseats correctly, what political party or agenda I should support, how unknowingly racist I am, charities I should be donating to, and on and on. We all know posts like that aren’t usually very effective, because it comes across too harshly to those who don’t already agree with us, and just puts them on the defensive or irritates them into unfriending us. All those dynamics aside, though, I thought about the real people behind those posts. Their passions, their life experiences, their good intentions. How the car seat or vaccination advocates are not crazy, judgmental helicopter parents, but they are friends who care really deeply about children, even those who aren’t their own, and they care enough to risk offending people in order to protect my kids. I thought about the marathon runners whose causes have touched their lives personally and are worthy causes, whether or not I have the money to support them all. I thought about the political activists, many of whom have a true heart for justice (even if they have very different ideas about what that is), all of whom have a voice that deserves to be heard and a point of view that deserves to be taken into consideration (yes, even the guy who holds what you feel is a ridiculous position opposite yours). Then there are people like me who talk about religion. I’m sure it’s not always welcome or politically correct, and I probably get my fair share of eye rolls or unfriendings. But after a lot of years of being fearful about sharing this part of myself with others, I’ve decided that I want to live authentically in front of the people I care about. And if I really have, in fact, found something true, life-changing, even soul-saving, how could I not share it with them? That’s probably not too different from how the babywearing advocate or the organic cleaning product seller feels. Each one of us has been given gifts, passions, experiences and perspectives for a purpose, and while they’re not meant to be used to attack each other, that doesn’t mean they’re meant to be hidden either. God made us differently so that we could each contribute what we have that not everybody else can bring to the table. So that we would challenge each other, enlarge each other’s perspectives, help each other grow. Sometimes, Kacey, it takes a village to raise a child or a neighborhood to mend that fence. Those are down-home values we can’t abandon just because we think we’re modern and independent.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” -Romans 12:4-8

Now just because we hold a view strongly doesn’t mean it’s right. But the wise among us know that life is multifaceted and complicated. There are a lot of gray areas, and a lot of legitimate arguments to be made by opposing sides of just about every issue, whether or not that side is right in its entirety (and which one ever is?). Those who are wise also remember that they have been wrong before and that there’s still so much more they have to learn (how easily we forget this…), and so they come to the table with a good dose of humility, ready to listen and learn.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” –Proverbs 12:15

It’s hard for me to comprehend sometimes why God would have made people so very different if he wanted us to love each other and live harmoniously, because it all just seems so chaotic, so hard to resolve. But the truth is, that’s probably exactly why he did it. So that we would learn how to love for real, not just when we naturally like someone or when someone agrees with us. But when it actually requires the kind of love God desires for us, the kind he shows us: sacrificial, humble, patient, gentle, merciful, even painful. It feels impossible, and without his love at work in our hearts, it probably is. My prayer is that as the people of God we would humble ourselves and learn to love like this, and show the world how it’s done. That was Jesus’ prayer, too, and that is a big part of the kingdom work he has left for us to do.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” -Luke 6:30-36

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34-35

Still, there’s more to love than just harmony, and more to the mission he gave us than never disturbing the waters. In fact, he guaranteed us that his kind of love was going to disturb the waters…

(stay tuned for part 2…)