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.