Today’s article was supposed to be about a magazine I used to write for, and how the owners — purportedly Christian — ran the place pretty much along standard, looks-like-any-other-business-these-days lines, but I couldn’t get the tone outside of the I’m right; they’re wrong mode.
So I thought of another topic that has to do with Christianity, that of our tendency — as Christians — of rejecting or despising one another.
If you’re not a Christian and you’re thinking, “What? They reject and despise each other, not just me?” I understand. We do have a problem with this whole love and acceptance thing, but people are messy and noisy and they drive too slow and they say unkind things and they never change the toilet paper roll and we, as Christians, too frequently get sidetracked.
One of our major sidetracking issues has to do with external signs of our Christianity — what we wear; how we wear it; what we eat; what holidays we celebrate — or don’t celebrate — and how; what we read or watch on TV; if we go to church services and how often. If there’s any outer, tangible way of differentiating ourselves from one another, you can bet we’ll do it.
Those of us who propound certain behavior as being obligatory, look down upon, or reject, those who don’t.
And those who don’t have a problem with a particular activity or outer sign of religiosity, despise those who actively and aggressively push one.
Don’t blame me for this — the apostle Paul mentions the matter in Roman 14, when he says, “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
“Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”
When I read this, a most unpleasant thought slammed me in the face — “I am one of those people who despises others. And this is not okay.”
Well, that’s certainly a revelation. I knew I recoiled at people who tsked me for my language, shook their heads when they learned my reading tastes, chastised me for sleeping in until 7:30 when all the rest of God’s people were up at 4.
These are the same people who murmured, “No smoke without a fire,” when bad things happened in our life, some going so far as to say (behind our backs) that it all started when we let our six-year-old watch James Bond movies.
And yes, I despise people like this.
And they reject me.
And neither one of these attitudes is in line with Jesus’ exhortation that we love one another, as evidence to the rest of the world that there truly is something different about us, and Christianity is something worth seeking and finding because it offers hope, peace, love, charity, mercy, and acceptance.
You know, nobody said that loving one another would be easy, but nobody said we had to do the whole thing under our own power and abilities either. Oddly, the more we think about God and His goodness, as opposed to our neighbor and his irritating habits, the easier it is to love — or at least tolerate — our neighbor.
This is where families come in as an incubationary means of practicing this very difficult task of loving one another. Not all of us are as easy to live with as others of us, but we overlook a lot because we all belong together, and we may very well all be together in the same room, come the next big holiday.
So if you’re a Christian, let’s work on this. I’ll do my best not to despise or reject you. I’d appreciate it if you’d do the same for me, but if you don’t, that doesn’t let me off the hook.
Whatever our spiritual tradition, or if we are living outside a tradition, we all need to take up the beautiful challenge of walking our path because it’s our own spiritual journey. No one can walk it for us. Although Jesus or the Buddha, saints and prophets, gurus and religious leaders of the past or present can point us toward a way, only you are able to take the steps day by day to live this. Your own Divine identity is waiting for you to claim it, and your personal experience is waiting for you to embrace and honor it. Paul Coutinho, SJ (Jesuit)
Sharing with you a quote that keeps me grounded and keeps me from passing judgement where I have no business to. Personally, I think this would be a great Mission Statement for a, or the universal church run by no one faith or person – just One God. l sometimes pray outside the box. I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to share this post with my friends on facebook.
Margie — a beautiful quote with wise sentiments. Thank you for passing it on.
Do I MIND if you pass on my articles? Not at all! I fall at your feet in grateful supplication — as a writer and thinker who wants to share what I am learning, I am most, Most, MOST grateful when people pass me on. Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you for writing so openly on a topic that definitely needs to be brought to light. I pray continually for unity among God’s people, that we would love each other deeply, affectionately –even sacrificially. It’s funny (not really) that we focus on external signs of godliness instead of doing what Jesus told us to do: Love God with all that we are, and love people. Jesus says that those two commands sum up all of the do’s and don’t. It’s all about love. And yet the funny thing is, we cannot love anyone as they need to be loved. “I” seems to get in the way of selfless, unconditional love. “I” keeps me from bringing the highest good to others, and from overlooking offenses–harboring unforgiveness, which by the way harms me. So I pray daily that God would help me to love others as he loves. And wow, he’s answering that prayer BIG TIME! I love it! So i pray that God will fill you with His love for others, that He would give you His thoughts, His heart of tenderness towards those that reject you, and show you how you can bring the highest good to them. Selfless, sacrificial love cannot be achieved by human effort, it is a supernatural work of God.
With the Love of Christ!
Beautiful thoughts, Alecia, and a prayer that I hope will be answered. Unconditional love is a beautiful, mysterious thing that can only come about through Christ’s strength and hope.