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Posts tagged ‘acts of kindness’

What happened to respect?

Accept each other with love, and make and effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.”  Ephesians 4:2b-3 (CEB)

This is based on my pastor’s letter to my two congregations for this coming August (2015).  As I study the epistle lesson for this coming Sunday, I felt that it tied in with it in many ways.  So, I share it here on my blog as well.  Thanks for taking the time to read it!

The recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold same-sex marriages in our country has brought forth the worst and the best in people. What amazes me is the vicious verbal attacks that are posted everywhere from Christians. A friend of mine spoke out in support of it, and she was verbally abused by some in her congregation as well as her own family.  Then I began to see some very judgmental and derogatory posts on my Facebook page.

I’ve seen similar nasty notes posted about people running for office and about our president. No matter where we stand on the issues or how we feel about others, I believe that Jesus lived in a way that showed respect for people and valued who they were even when he didn’t agree with them.. Time and time again he was attacked by the temple leaders, and he responded firmly but with respect. Yes, he became angry, as we can see in the overturning of the money changers tables in the temple (Mark 14:15-19), he even called them a “brood of vipers” as he called them to accountability.

Yet, he consistently preached non-violence, and I believe that includes verbal, mental, emotional, and physical. Jesus first and foremost was about bringing God’s forgiveness and love to others. He accepted people even with all their faults and encouraged them to turn their lives toward God.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything except that as Christians who are followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond with grace and kindness rather than viciousness and hurtful words. Even when we don’t agree or have a gripe against another person, we can treat them with respect and try to see things from their perspective. When it’s “all about me” we can only see that “they” are wrong, and we are “right.”

I love hearing different perspectives, even though I may not always agree. And as the church, let’s face it, we aren’t going to always agree. How we respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is a reflection of who we are as God’s children and how we live our faith for others to see. It’s not about us but about bringing God to the world. Talking things through accomplishes far more than talking to others about how we feel, holding in our disagreement / resentment / anger, or just avoiding the person.

I’m also reminded of another verse from Proverbs 15:1 – A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.” (CEV) I’ve experienced this; I’ve seen it work; I know people who live it. In a world where we see violence of all kinds, maybe we can try to step into each other’s shoes once in a while to try to understand what is happening to the other person and, even when we don’t agree, we can practice and witness to others what Jesus preached, taught, and lived: respect, kindness, compassion, and love. Maybe, just maybe, we can be part of bringing back respect and courtesy as we truly make a difference in the world.

In what ways will you choose words or actions that build up rather than tear down?

How have you responded when someone disagreed with you on some issue?

When have you worked at really listening to someone else’s point of view to learn from them even if you don’t agree?

The Other Side of Things

“Jesus said, ‘Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish].’ So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net.” John 21:6 (CEB)

A Native American Proverb states, “Never criticize others until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.” This is something I try to do as much as possible, and I preach it often.  Do I always succeed in following my own advice or the advice of our Native American teachers?  No, but I keep on trying.  I really wish people would begin to do this more often.  Sometimes I think we become so caught up in our own needs, wants, and demands that we really don’t walk in someone else’s shoes.

In the scripture passage above, we are reminded that Jesus appeared to the disciples following his resurrection and continued to teach them to look at things from a different perspective.  From what I understand, the fishers of his day would throw their nets over the left side of the boat because the catch was always better on that side.  For some reason they “had always done it that way,” so they didn’t even think of casting the net to the right side.

When they followed Jesus’ instructions, they were able to bring in a huge catch.  It was at that point in the story that Peter realized it was Jesus and swam ashore.  That was a pretty interesting thing for him to do given that he had denied Jesus three times and hadn’t been able to apologize once he discovered that Jesus had been raised from the dead!  Jesus eventually takes Peter aside and asks him three times if he loves him, to which Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”  Jesus instructs him to “Feed his sheep,” “Tend his sheep,” and “Feed his sheep.”  Forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, commissioning.

Jesus had a way of being able to walk in another person’s shoes.  He could understand their situation and help them to see things from a different perspective.  He never compromised his own mission and ministry to accommodate their “agendas.”  Rather, he entered into their lives and walked with them so they could find their way, could receive healing, and be encouraged.  Jesus does the same with us.

We don’t walk alone. Jesus walks with us, not only through the power of the Holy Spirit, but also through companions who are on the journey with us.  So, isn’t it remarkable that we continue to forget to look at things from each other’s perspectives.  Criticism comes when someone thinks we aren’t doing things the “right way” which more often than not is “their way.”  I wish we could consistently think about what the other person is feeling and try to enter into their perspective. Maybe our lives would be so much better because we are respecting and caring about others rather than ourselves.

Of course, we don’t need to be a door mat for someone who will not respect us, but we can try to understand what is going on with them and act (or react) accordingly.  That, to me, is looking at the other side of things and following in Jesus’ example.

What are the ways we can become more aware of “walking a mile in the other person’s moccasins?”

In what ways can we make a positive difference to someone else by doing so?

How do we model Jesus’ respect for others by doing so?

Maybe we will make the world a better place when we ponder these questions and look at things from a different side.  May it be so!

The Beginning and the End

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.  Revelation 1:8

If we really think about it, we might some day begin to realize that God is in all things, everywhere, in all time.  It’s a hard concept!  We tend to think in terms of what WE can do and place God into those human restrictions of movement, space, and time.  Yet, God will not be contained.  God is the beginning of all time and the end of all time.

Many people have tried to decipher the book of Revelations, placing their own interpretation of what will happen in the end times.  Yet, we are reminded in several places in the Bible that no one knows when the end will come – only God.  I suppose our human “need to know” keeps us second-guessing, but over and over again, we have been shown that we simply can’t out-guess God.

People in all ages have tried to out-guess God.  The story of the Tower of Babel was a demonstration of people trying to be on the same level as God.  Of course, God thwarted their efforts.  There are countless times when humanity has attempted to be on the same plane as God, and it just doesn’t work.

Our work is to live in this in-between time – between the beginning and the end.  It may the beginning and end of our own lives or the beginning and end of the world.  The objective is to live the best life we can live making a difference in the world through acts of kindness, compassion, tolerance, acceptance, and sharing God’s love.  We do that because we believe that this God loved us enough to send Jesus to die for our sins and be raised from the dead so we could have life forever.

The beginning – Alpha – and the end – Omega in Greek.  How will we live our lives to serve God in this in-between time?  Let us draw closer to God and one another; let us learn from each other and reach out to others; let us live as if each day is our last and trusting that when the end comes, God is there, even as God was there in the beginning.  Blessings!

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