I grew up in a small town in the north part of Florida. It was (and still is) a beautiful town full of beautiful people. Recently a news article from one of the local online newspapers (Foster Folly News) caught my attention, but it was the comments that were so bothersome for me. The short part of the story is that there is evidently a nativity scene on the front lawn of the city hall that has attracted the attention of someone (allegedly a reporter from another local newspaper) who has requested it to be removed for constitutional reasons. It seems to have created quite the stir on social media and many people are commenting on articles demanding a boycott, or demanding this reporter’s job, or other actions. It is to this opportunity, to this point that I wanted to weigh in and offer my thoughts.
To My Hometown,
It has been some time since I have been able to call Chipley “home,” but as I was driving around the streets of Chipley during the week of Thanksgiving I was filled with all sorts of wonderful memories. You will always be my hometown, the place I grew up. I am quite proud of that fact, and never hesitate to share with those who want to know where I am from.
Recently there has been quite the stir about the Nativity scene on the front lawn of the City Hall. I have spent some time reading the articles posted, but I have spent more time reading the various comments posted by many of you. There has been much emotion in your words used in the comments, and this situation has the potential to bring a media spotlight to the panhandle of Florida. I know that my opinion is not very valuable, but I wanted to offer a few words of advice, hopefully wise words, about the opportunity that now exists for you, the citizens of Chipley.
First of all, I would advise you to think before you post. Go slow in your responses. In the age of social media and instant news we often post things before giving full thought to their ramifications. Unfortunately, when we speak (or type) before we think we often say things we later regret. An even more unfortunate side effect of the digital society we live in is that the words we use are never erased. There are no taking back the harmful words we use online. They are there forever and can cause us great grief for years to come. So think about your words before you use them!
Secondly, I would remind you that the presence of a nativity scene does not affect the meaning of Christmas. I have read many comments stating things like “Christ is the reason for the season so we should leave this nativity up to show it” and other similar ideas. I would remind you that while Christ is definitely the reason for Christmas, that remains the same whether everyone in town has a nativity scene, or no one. Remember that as citizens of a heavenly Kingdom we should have as our priority eternal things. I assure you, in Heaven it will not matter whether or not our City Hall has a nativity scene on its front lawn.
Lastly for the Christians of Chipley- I would encourage you to use this opportunity to prove that you are indeed a follower of Jesus. If you notice Christ’s actions you can see that He never spoke up to defend Himself when He was wrongly accused. He never organized a boycott, He never attempted to cause someone to lose their job because they disagreed with Him. All He did was love them. Jesus said in John 13:35 that all people will know we are His disciples by our love for one another. Instead of fighting against this newspaper, or this reporter love this newspaper and this reporter. Take time to get to know the reporter and do something nice for him- offer to rake his leaves, wash his car, pay for his family to have a nice night out. Seek out ways to love on the newspaper, and this reporter instead of trying to destroy their livelihood.
That seems to be the response that Jesus would have, so it seems to be the response that we should have as followers of Jesus.
With great love for Chipley,