Lent is a season for followers of Jesus to seek spiritual renewal, each in our own way. For some of us, renewal may involve abstaining from something. Or replacing something. Or adding something.
In the United States this year, Lent coincides with several presidential primary elections. An election year brings out spite, meanness and contentiousness, even from surprising places. Some of us have acquaintances who are silent on social media until an election year rolls around. Then they come out of the woodwork to have their say.
When we talk about politics, there’s a fine line between stating one’s opinion and descending into quarreling. That line blurs quickly with the fast pace of online dialogue. That’s particularly the case in a high-drama year like this one.
Followers of Jesus are called to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5). What if we took the season of Lent to focus on the reconciliation of God and humanity through Christ and on the ways we might reflect that life-transforming reconciliation in our relationships with each other?
What if during this Lent — and perhaps the rest of 2016 — we said “no” to arguing contentiously online?
There is a subtle power in silence, in refusing to engage further after making an initial point. Silence liberates us from the power of a would-be opponent and dissolves the emerging conflict.
Like Jesus, who “did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7) though he was in the right, we can use silence to bring calm to the inflamed atmosphere of social media.
Constructive discussion builds understanding and empathy and moves toward truth. Heated argument rarely achieves any of these goals. Silence doesn’t mean never saying anything, but it can be an empowering alternative to a prideful impulse to win a battle of words.
If we are people of God’s peace, let that be our focus of spiritual renewal this Lent. Let this peace be evident amid the storm of an election year.