by Rev. Christopher Lewis,
Nothing is Impossible Ministries
I was reading over people’s statuses on Facebook lately and was amazed at how much hate and bitterness I saw. I read statements by conservatives expressing their disdain of liberals, statements by liberals expressing their disapproval of conservatives, statements by independents claiming the moral ground over both parties, Christians talking down on non-Christians, non-Christians talking down on Christians, and the list goes on…
What a sad situation! I’m not just going to say, “Why can’t we all just get along?” I know that people have to stand up for their convictions and that there are times when people’s world-views are so completely different that it really is nearly impossible for some people to get along or to have a close relationship with one another at least.
However, I am convinced that if we weren’t so quick to judge other people for having different opinions or beliefs, we would open up a lot more opportunities for learning from one another and discovering that other people aren’t always as stupid as we may think they are just because they don’t agree with our own “superior” opinions.
Let me give a couple of examples of the skewed point of view that many of us have developed through the years when it comes to our opinions of people who are different than us:
1) Conservatives and Liberals
When conservatives and liberals resort to name-calling and insisting that everyone on the other end of the spectrum is stupid, they only make themselves look stupid and degrade their own convictions. The reality is that there are people on both sides of the political spectrum who are intelligent and have a lot to offer to the world. You may not agree with their political views, but that does not mean that you can then dismiss all their contributions to society just because you think that your politics are superior to theirs. The greatest way to close the door to progress is to demonize the people who disagree with you. By doing that, you assure that there will never be agreement or cooperation and that you will never successfully persuade anybody of your own point of view because nobody is going to listen to an argument that is motivated by bitterness or conceit.
Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” is not just some irrational religious goal. It is actually a great pearl of wisdom. It is only when you learn to respect the person who disagrees with you that you ever stand a chance of changing his or her point of view. It is also the only way you or I will ever stand a chance of noticing if, from time to time, it turns out that our own point of view is the one that needs changing. By respecting those who disagree with us, we open up doors; by disrespecting them, we close the door and lock ourselves within.
By the way, the terms “conservative” and “liberal” don’t always mean the same thing everywhere. It depends on what you’re talking about. For example, theological conservatism and political conservatism are different things, and while those of us who are Christians may believe that we are called to “conserve” the traditions of Scripture, we are also called to give “liberally” to those who are in need. So let’s be careful that we know what we are talking about before we hide too dogmatically behind our labels.
2) Christians and non-Christians
On one side, I have heard Christians speak with what sounds like hate about many people who believe and act differently than themselves, and on the other hand I have heard non-Christians speak with positive venom toward those who believe in Christ. Something needs to be done about these attitude problems on both sides of the belief spectrum!
First of all, let me speak to my fellow followers of Christ. Jesus died for everyone because He loves everyone. He expects us to love everyone just as He does. It doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with everybody’s belief system or lifestyle, but it does mean that we should leave the judging to God and follow His command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When I hear Christians speaking hatefully toward Muslims, people of other races, homosexuals, people who hold other political views than their own, or any people group or individual, I know immediately that that Christian is not following Christ in regards to the way he or she speaks of others. Jesus actually spoke His greatest words of love to the people His society considered the worst of sinners and His greatest words of rebuke to the people who were considered the most godly. Let’s be careful that we stand on His side and not on the side of the judgmental hypocrites with whom Jesus Himself showed the least patience.
Now let me speak to the person who has not chosen to follow Christ. Please try to recognize that the people who have spoken hatefully toward you are NOT representing Christ or Christianity even if they use His name while doing so. They are representing their own fears, presuppositions and bigotries. Please don’t blame God or Christianity for what people have said or done. It doesn’t make sense. Would you blame America for every bad thing that was done to you by a few Americans? Would you blame Dove Soap for everything done to you by people who happen to use soap? Or, would you blame the color green because somebody who mistreated you happened to be wearing a green shirt?
When a Christian hurts you, God is not to blame. Sadly, I have met judgmental Christians, but I have also met judgmental non-Christians who automatically make assumptions about me as a person just because I follow Jesus. It hurts just as much when you judge me as it would for me to judge you.
Do I believe that Jesus has the answers you need for life? Yes, I do. I believe that He loves you just as much as He loves me and that if you would take the chance to find out what HE is really about and not base your opinions about God upon your experiences of people who claim to follow Him, you would discover that what He really has to offer you is forgiveness, love and the chance to live forever… but I will not try to force you to believe, and I will not treat you as a lesser person just because you don’t. But, please, even if you don’t believe in God or choose to follow Him, don’t hate the one who has nothing but love for you.
For anyone to treat others as lesser persons just because they don’t agree with us is not love; it’s arrogance. If we will learn to listen to one another more and condemn one another less, I believe that we will see great things happen. Our walls of bitterness will begin to crumble and we will all be more open to learning what true love is all about.