Following up on Moderation blog I recently posted-
The all-too-often human response to any issue… and I mean nearly any issue -may end up extreme rage and utter rejection of the individual/s in question. How can one “love your neighbor as you love yourself” when fear and/or anger are the core engines of one’s attitude towards the other?
While obviously we cannot force reconciliation with someone who is not truly willing to engage, on my/your part the issues seem pretty clear: love calls us to try -and if such fails, to mind our attitude regardless. If we profess to be Christian, forgiving is an actual command of Jesus, not an option. We must pray for “the other” with a heart of kindness rather than disdain. “Do ALL you do in love”. But let’s bring this home regarding issues, shall we?
For most in the U.S. there are plenty of them!
Gun control, the death penalty, abortion, LGBTQ, Muslims and of course “Who are you gonna vote for?!” can bring us to very dark places of enmity. Maybe it’s only a neighbor you truly dislike or someone of a different theological perspective, a different “way” of “being/doing ‘church'” or??
No question that fear and anger are sometimes appropriate -but if fear mixed with anger control my heart attitude and words I am nearly sure to destroy any possibility of relationship with “them”. So how does anyone have any sort of authentic relationship with those we dislike, perhaps deeply disagree with to the point of private and public opposition?
For me the clincher as a believer is this: if you don’t sort this out you can forget being any sort of witness of Jesus and His love to this person or people group… and that’s on you, not them.
Read that again please.
Speaking as one who seeks to trust, follow and reflect Jesus- “the others” are flesh-and-blood human beings for whom we Christians believe Christ died. Okay, some of you don’t think He “died once for ALL” in the sense you believe He only REALLY did it for those who are “the elect”. No matter, because nobody but God Himself knows who is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, true? I suggest we put that straw man argument aside while we walk the earth.
“For God so loved the world” means everyone -regardless. Regardless of what? Regardless of everything and anything.
I am fully serious.
There is no sin (as I always emphasize, what the Bible clearly refers to in this negative way) for which one cannot be forgiven or released. Yes, there is “the unforgiveable sin” but as long as one can breathe and think toward Him, a person can repent and believe. God’s grace is extended to “whosover will, let them come”, whether or not you or I strongly dislike or disagree with them.
There are times you and I may not -want- to be part of the people/way through which “they” actually come to Him. Sick truth, but truth it is. WE must repent before calling them to do the same.
Some choose to ignore sin or argue endlessly whether or not X, Y or Z -IS- sinful, missing the mark of what God considers proper, right, helpful to a growing relationship with Him and others. But get this and get it soon as possible or risk any real ability to influence people towards Jesus Christ:
There is -no- gathering of Christ-followers on earth that is not populated with sinners. Saved, born-again, truly in relationship with Christ… yet sinners, each and all! I may be part of the reverse witness that trashes them right alongside their own iniquity.
Within or outside the churches, how do we expect to help people trust and obey Him when we attack them in anger and/or fear?
I speak from personal experience having done it and also being on the receiving end of such behavior.
I find it interesting that some in the churches (or non-church attending Christians, take your pick) err in grace (the better of the two extremes but wrong none the less if simply validating sin) while others blow it as the harsh, mean proclaimers of “truth” and “righteousness”. Which “false balance” is not “an abomination”? Moderation. “A word fitly spoken”. Prayer. Of course “a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking”. “In all things, love”.
Genuine acceptance of the person while disagreement and even repulsion re. their sin is core to what I believe we must learn to navigate. It starts with me, not the other person.
Sin remains sin, the person remains a human being in need of God’s love -love via you and I, like it or not.
They may or may not ever follow Him but I must and must learn to love as He loves while indeed “hating the sins spotted by the flesh” as Jude aptly puts it.
Jude then writes about fear, but in context, fearing (respecting and trembling) at God and possible judgment, not fear of the individual in question.
Learning takes time. For both parties. We all make mistakes. Our own pendulum swings from one extreme to the other.
There are those (shall I call them “militant”?) believers who will be gracious to, for example, Jewish people who consider the Christian faith an aberration to genuine Jewish faith and practice. If pressed, some of these Christ-followers will admit they do not believe these Jews will be redeemed unless they follow Jesus Christ as Messiah, Lord and Savior. At the same time, the very same Christians will act out of fear and/or anger toward, for example, illegal immigrants.
One we like, the other we reject out of fear or anger or both.
Arabs, Muslims, illegal immigrants, GLBTQ people, prisoners or ex-felons, the poor, the rich, Democrats, Republicans, heck, even the “other” church folk in your area… there is no end of “others” whom you may deeply and passionately disagree with. You might even be fully correct in your assessment of their mistakes, flaws, sins. It may be quite understandable and sensible that you are nearly sick in the pit of your gut as to how they speak, treat others, live out their sins, how destructive their core beliefs, etc.. Understood!
So what sort of reflection of Jesus are we to them if on -our- part, we truly want only to avoid them and take the attitude, for example, the Jews had toward Samaritans (according to Jesus)? The Samaritans WERE messed up -but not beyond the redemptive love of God.
Hear me well, I love Israel, pray for the peace of Jerusalem but I can say I feel and do the same for Palestinians as a people. Both need the saving grace of God in Christ. Both.
We can argue- “Hey, Israel are the people of God!!” and I fully agree… but “ALL have sinned and fallen short”. Indeed we have. I do not see strong enough evidence in scripture to have faith in the universalism doctrine which concludes all will be saved, Jewish nor gentile.
WHOM among those of us who trust in Jesus are willing to change in our own hearts, behaviors, relationships to the extent “the other” doesn’t sense being shut out, rejected, judged as “beyond the reach of God the Holy Spirit”?
I am not advocating tacit agreement, rather relationship based on God’s love for your neighbor.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
It is no cake-walk, but perhaps we need to demonstrate God’s love toward those who are still sinners by doing a little dying of our own. Fear and anger are two major hurdles we must give up to gain relationships that can change hearts, choices and the very history we are part of!
Are there personal crosses in such love? Is loving one’s neighbor, even enemies commanded by Jesus Christ? Yes and yes. Dealing with it is exactly what I am talking about.
Is this easy, a cake-walk? Not even! I wrestle with it myself, but it seems quite clear from His Word what we as Christ-followers are called to live out in this world. Fear and anger are certainly not fruits of the Spirit!
Things to consider, and as always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn