Open Hearts, Open Hands

My Papa died from heart failure this time last year. His death was painful, leaving an empty void in our lives: the absence of a husband for Grammy, a father for my mom, and a spiritual role model for me. Growing up, he was the man I looked up to for my faith. After leading my dad to Jesus, Papa became the rock for my family's biblical knowledge. When my family stopped going to church, and no one could answer my questions about the Bible or the world, he was the only person I could ask and get an answer.

It wasn't until college when I became aware of his misconceptions about God. He knew a ridiculous amount about Scripture, but what he failed to grasp was the heart of God, and that steered him to some crazy theology and a very joyless faith. Papa never listened to other people's sides unless he was going to dispute them, only reading opposing perspectives to argue, never to learn. But who he sparred with most, and who he struggled to love the most, were the people whose opinions followed his opposing political party.

Sounds like America's 2020. Not the heart of God.

God's heart is for unity, compassion, and charity. And people - all people – remind me of this.
I disagree with my friends over everything, from fast food rankings to healthcare, but none of these differences change the way we see & love each other. My boyfriend votes and worships and prays differently from me, but he continues to push me towards God because of this. If we surround ourselves only with like-minded people, we lose the chance to gain wisdom, understanding, and humility.

But friends and boyfriends are much easier to love compared to the infuriating people I watch online. Regardless of their interesting beliefs, the same people who frustrate me are the same people who remind me who Jesus is. They direct me towards aspects of God – justice, empathy, sacrifice, boldness – that I don’t carry. They challenge me to shift my perspective wider, so I can see them better. When we see God’s people how he sees them, then we start loving like Christ.

In promoting peace, I’m not attempting to discourage righteous anger. It’s when that anger manifests into a hatred towards others is when the church divides itself and loses its purpose. Too often I see Christians (and - if we’re being honest - myself) acting as the Judge, bringing shame and condemnation to the people Jesus loves. If we let this anger and pride reside within us, it becomes this bitter resentment that hardens our hearts. And what then? We’re living the complete opposite of what Christ asks us to do.

If we're not falling on our hands and knees at the foot of the cross asking Jesus for the way, we're not grounded, regardless of how sound we think our knowledge of Scripture or knowledge of God is. Scripture forms our foundation of the truth, but abiding with Jesus is what keeps us in that truth, and what better way to abide in him than humbling ourselves to let his will be done? But we can't do that if we're too intent on holding tightly to our own opinions with closed fists and hard hearts.

Papa could have loved so many people if he would’ve just humbled himself to listen. He could have led so many people to Jesus if he would’ve agreed to disagree and cared for others the same. Now I believe this is the time to be a people of peace, dropping our pride to pick up his love, to change us more into the unblemished bride he calls for us to be.

Author | Caroline Beasley

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