I've seen it on every social media site and read articles about real anxiety and heard it around many Friendsgiving tables: "I don't want to see my relatives who voted for X during the election... UGH." And I get it-- believe me, I do. Those tense conversations over platefuls of turkey and carbs with people you only see annually but have read their posts of anger, jubilation, or worry over the past 18 months seem dreadful. I cried the first time I heard someone thanking God in gratitude for the results of the election while I felt the exact opposite. It may be hard to even consider smiling warmly at a relative we feel so strongly different from, much less having 6 hours of conversation together. It's no wonder SNL spoofed these fears last weekend with their skit "The Bubble" which is as hilarious as it is real: we really would like to live in a world where people who we cannot relate to do not exist. But the fact is, we do, they do, and we need to figure out a way to get beyond the dread.
In Romans 15, Paul speaks to a division that has arisen in the early church between Jews and Gentiles:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. — Ro 15:1-7
Paul exhorts them to "bear with the failings of the weak", to "not please ourselves", to "please our neighbors for their good", and to "accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you". There is a humbling we as Christians are called to observe, to put others before ourselves, even when it is difficult and painful to do so-- just as Jesus did. It isn't merely platitudes or pleasantries that Paul asks for, but to see others as Christ sees us-- through the eyes of grace. Charles Spurgeon wrote,
"Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another."
As some of you know, I've spent the last 5ish months living with a family of 6. It has been hands down the highlight of my year, and I've learned more lessons from them and their kids (ages 6, 5, 3, 1) than I can count. The 5 year old (actually, she would like me to tell you that she's 4 and three-quarters, thankyouverymuch) has a special place in my heart. She can't help but tell the truth, and she wears her emotions on her face (I can relate!). Some days we are bffs, and other days, well... she would rather I not bother her-- and I get that, because those are literally the emotions I wrestle with on a daily basis, haha! But the other day as I tucked her into bed, she said to me, "Nancy Page, did you know that my heart changed so that I love you now?"
I pretty much melted right there on her bed, fighting tears and trying to figure out in real-time what the best way to react was to that sweet and honest sentiment.
I tell you that story to say, our hearts can change towards the people that we struggle to love, too. We can choose to see them not for their flaws, faults, or differences, but for who they are through who Christ is for us, and for them. I'm not saying to fake it, or to be silent tomorrow. I'm not even saying you need to avoid politics. It's real and important and on top of mind for many Americans. But I do think there's a way, through the eyes of grace, to see those people with love and compassion that only comes from Jesus.
If Jesus can come to earth and not only put up with ignorance, fear, and cruelty but love the people who showed Him it-- you can love those relatives at the table tomorrow.