On this Christmas Day 2019 the first thought I had for the day was to thank God for sending His Son Jesus into this world to redeem it.

My second thought was about polarisation - that this world is becoming more polarised, more intolerant, more nationalistic, more patriotic.

These days it seems that you’re either right about everything or wrong about everything. It is difficult to hold a view that is in opposition to someone else without being painted as wrong in many areas. There are the progressives or liberals versus the conservatives (despite the slightly odd naming conventions in Australian politics); pro Brexit or anti Brexit; pro Scottish independence or anti Scottish independence; pro man-made climate change or anti man-made climate change; pro same sex marriage or anti same sex marriage; pro Israel or anti Israel; pro America or anti America; pro free choice in abortion or anti free choice in abortion; pro democracy or anti democracy; pro euthanasia or anti euthanasia; pro free markets or anti free markets. But the problem is that as soon as you declare a position on any of these you are immediately painted with that label and all of your other ideas are either venerated or dismissed (depending on whether the assessor agrees or disagrees with your stated position on topic A).

Some things are black and white; many things are combinations, or grey, or may change over time in the light of new information. Many issues and decisions are amoral so there is no necessary right or wrong. Some choices are better or worse, but others are simply choices that one makes and can equally unmake without having to resign from every other choice or position one has ever made. But some choices have consequences. So how do we raise and discuss these issues without being painted and dismissed immediately? I don’t know, but I have an idea. The apostle Paul writing to the church in Ephesus in around 60 AD (because choosing to use ‘AD’ rather than ‘CE’ is another topic that can polarise, albeit in a minor way) wrote that believers should “speak the truth in love”. That has two components: What we say, and how we say it.

Now many may ask along with Pontius Pilate, “what is truth?” We may well disagree on truth - its nature, character, importance, relevance, consequences etc. But we each need to be free to speak up about what we believe and what we think (the truth part), but we need to do that in a respectful, caring, non-confrontational way (the love part). But interestingly I can choose to do that even if you don’t. It’s a two way street but we both don’t need to be walking it at the same time, but ideally there should be a mutual willingness to amble along at some stage.