“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?