I'm wrapping up my second year here at Gateway...well...one and a half, but sophomore year nonetheless.
The past sixteen months have been eye-opening to say the least. I was always sure of what I believed on some level, but as for how that applied to interactions with everyone else was a completely different story. Everyone warned me before I came here that it wasn't going to be how I thought at all. People aren't always what they seem. You will end up in situations that you never dreamed would occur in your life.
Those people were so right.
Since I've been here, I've met people from pretty much any background you could imagine. I've met those on the super-conservative end and I've met people joining me on the far left of liberalism. And even some that make my liberal tendencies look like a nice middle ground. And, granted with some exceptions, many of these people from different backgrounds have managed to coexist relatively peacefully, forming bonds in some of the most unexpected of circumstances. These are the bonds that I have come to appreciate and the things that I love to see.
And then there are the exceptions. The situations in which conflict rises up and causes friction among the masses. While these scenarios might not necessarily be continuous or even plentiful, the ones that do arise tend to not only be long-lasting and tedious, but also loud and obnoxious. And these are the things that get under my skin.
From observation, I have noted reaction and response to circumstances that arise in my classmates lives. They range from the scandalous to the utterly mundane and are never lacking conversational sustenance. The rumor mill and novelty of such events keeps their notereity quite alive, and even causes them on occasion to grow into something monstrous, horribly disfigured and misconstrued until the essence of the truth isn't even recognizable. People's dirty laundry, be it true or falsified, is exposed to all the world, many times leaving a path of judgmental glances and presuppositions about what such things mean about the student in question. After all, they're supposed to be training for the ministry and therefore have an image to uphold.
To be completely honest, those observations break my heart. I hate hearing the whispers and the rumors. I hate that it's become okay to publically disparage a situation about which you really know nothing. And I hate that all of these things so frequently play into the fact that we, the people who are supposed to be Christians, are viewed as hateful and judgmental people.
In essence, I love Christ. But at times, as a Christian, I feel as though I'm expected, even obligated to hate. And that is something that I cannot stand.
We will say that we're willing to love our neighbor. But in all honesty, this is so frequently on our own terms. We'll find reasons that we can't associate with people who leave our midst. For example, "I can't approve of or condone what they're doing."
When are we going to learn that they aren't looking for our approval? They don't care about that. A lot of times, all they care about is whether or not they are going to be accepted and loved for who they are, whether they're making the "right" decision or not. The way to win people back is not by ostracizing them. It's not by criticizing them. It's not by posting cleverly disguised Facebook statuses showing your shame and disapproval for their decision. It's by loving them.
You don't have to approve. And the situation may very well not be right. If they ask for your input, share it with kindness and concern. Go to them as a friend and offer your counsel if that's what they want. But if they don't, why force it on them? In other words, shut up and quit making the real Christians look bad. And certainly don't share what you think is going on with everyone else, even under the guise of "I just want you to pray". It's quite possible that you're wrong in the first place. And if you're not, it's not your situation to share.
Love doesn't always mean interference and discussion. Sometimes love is just shutting up.