I've been thinking a lot about being misunderstood. Maybe you have too, as you navigate things like racism and injustice, and as you are seeking to understand what steps to take and how to foster relationships. When we speak about these things, we are opening the door to be misheard, misrepresented, and misunderstood. And often, the fear of being misunderstood means that we stay silent. This fear is real and it is important that we name it and are honest about it, but what if we didn't look at being misunderstood as the worst thing that could happen?
We see this throughout the life of Jesus. He isn’t concerned with pleasing crowds or bowing to cultural norms. Instead, Jesus is vulnerable in the ways that he communicates. He draws near to the broken and lonely. He gathers outsiders, including those who may damage his reputation. He chooses the weak, the faithless, and the meek and in doing so, he shows his grace and gentleness.
Through Jesus, we see the value of vulnerability in our communication to others. We do not have to fear being wrong, not having the right answer, or appearing to be misrepresented. We can show Christ-likeness to others by being vulnerable in our posture and demeanor as we engage others.
Jesus moves toward people relationally and gently. Although there are times when he rebukes with firmness, most of these instances are with the Pharisees and religious people. Jesus is a friend to the skeptic, a listener to the cynic, and is kind to the agnostic. And Jesus risks being misunderstood by his audience and often his response is not to fight back or correct, but to simply allow those people to think what they want to think.
In all these instances, we learn from Jesus what our posture should be. And I have to ask myself, am I okay with people labeling me as a liberal, a feminist, a democrat, left-wing, fill in the blank because I speak about things I believe are at the heart of the gospel? And the answer has to be yes. Yes, as I think about the ways that Jesus was labeled unfairly. Yes, as I think about the ways that BIPOC have been labeled unjustly. And yes, because I know that this is really not about me.