WARNING: Religious talk below.
Been thinkin’ lately about morality, faith, and getting along with others who don’t think the same way as I do.
This, of course, only works with people who are open to discussion, know themselves as flawed individuals, and realize that all humans are weak. It doesn’t work with folks whose first response to those who disagree is to verbally shut them down or to physically cut off their heads. Self-righteousness brooks no argument.
Nor does self-righteousness belong only to the religious. Wow, can the politically-correct and the non-religious exhibit a boisterous and vitriolic brand of self-righteousness.
Anywho. Moving along.
Luke 6:35 (New Living Translation, Holy Bible) says this:
Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
Those who are unthankful and wicked. Us. We like to think we’re good and smart, and above stupidity or evil, but in reality, we’re weak and foolish and we do terrible things to our fellow humans, even to people we like. People we love.
The next verse (in the New American Standard version) says this: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
We know of recent situations where landlords or Christian innkeepers don’t want to rent to homosexual couples; where Christian photographers don’t want to take pictures at homosexual weddings, nor Christian bakers supply the cakes; where Muslim barbers don’t want to give masculine haircuts to lesbians. Those who refuse services are called bigots and far more foul names, are dealt lawsuits and negative publicity campaigns, and more. Yet, in some cases — some, not all — individuals and businesses were targeted because they do not condone homosexuality. In other words, the customers walked in the door knowing the business owners dissented with their lifestyle choices.
So, then, whose rights are being violated? Whose beliefs are being pushed aside? Who’s the victim?
I’m not saying that people of faith should remain silent in the face of bullying and become doormats — far from it — but can we disarm the bullies?
There are those who will hate us and make our lives miserable, even kill us, simply because we follow Christ. That’s no secret. He told us that would happen (Matthew 5:11 and 10:17; Luke 9:24 and Matthew 16:25; and more). It’s part of our history. Persecution in the Western world may be more annoying than life-threatening right now, but killings, beatings, and massacres are happening right now to believers around the world.
When we face opposition or challenge, we may be tempted to back down, smile and nod, hide our faith, follow the crowd, go along to get along, try to be popular. But that’s fear talking — and we’re not supposed to live in fear (Revelation 12:10-12; 1 John 4:18). We need to be ready always to give an account of the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15), and to speak plainly (1 Corinthians 14:7-9), regardless of consequences.
On the other hand, instead of retreating in the face of opposition, we may be tempted to lash out, to give eye-for-an-eye revenge on those who hurt us or seek our destruction. We might speak hatefully, turn the persecution around, try to quash our enemies. But that’s what others do. It is not becoming of followers of Christ.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:44-48, NASB)
Some of us may speak loudly, hold up signs, boycott, refuse goods or services.
However, standing against wrong is not necessarily doing right.
We who claim to follow the teachings of Christ are instructed to repay ugliness with kindness.
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink. (Proverbs 25:21, King James Bible)
What if those of us who disagree with someone’s choices remember that serving is not necessarily condoning?
(W)hoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:27-28, NASB)
Jesus certainly didn’t condone the way mankind was living, but offered a better way. He who was without sin offered His life for the sinful. He who deserved worship knelt before the weak and washed their feet. He didn’t have to love us, but He did. He still does.
He prayed for us, too, and asked His Father to help us:
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:16-18)
What if we who claim to follow Christ truly put our best efforts into our work, and considered everything we do as serving Him (1 Corinthians 10:31)?
We are not, after all, in charge of someone else’s soul. That is God’s domain. We can, however, reflect His heart to the world — “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all” (Romans 8:32, NASB).
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35, NASB)
Not just for one another, but for those who live and believe differently than we do.
King Saul told David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil” (1 Samuel 24:17, NASB). Perhaps, in striving to live according to Biblical principles, we are less David and more Saul. We forget the bigger picture. We swallow camels while straining at gnats. We alienate people who need Truth.
What if a baker, without hiding his beliefs or backing down from them, baked the tastiest cake possible, and prayed as he did it?
What if an innkeeper rented the couple the cleanest, nicest room she had, and prayed as she did it?
What if a photographer shot the best photos in her career, and prayed as she took them?
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18, NASB)
When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 6:7, King James Bible)
For further reference: Luke 6:27-28; Romans 12:14,20; 2 Chronicles 28:25; Luke 10:25-37 (the Good Samaritan); 1 Thessalonians 5:15. There are other passages I could list, but these’ll do for now.