Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mutual Respect

It is sad that this country and whole Christian denominations have become so polarized over issues and viewpoints that each side demonizes those who disagree with them. The attitude today is that if you don’t agree with me on any issue important to me, I view you as less than human, deserving of nothing but contempt. Whatever happened to compromise? Finding common ground? Mutual respect, even if you agree to disagree?

Any liberals reading this are applauding and agreeing with me, saying that it’s those terrible right-wing fundamentalist types that are so hateful and intransigent. Many of them are. Yet I have seen “liberals” who are anything but (see dictionary definition of “liberal”). They aren’t open to dialog, they are mean-spirited and nasty, they are disrespectful of those who disagree with them and won’t compromise their own principles, and are as rigid and unyielding as any religious fundamentalist. Of course we all know conservatives are guilty of those same sins, but I have also seen some conservatives that are more tolerant and open-minded than those who piously preach those virtues.

As I’ve mentioned before, those preaching the loudest about “tolerance” are the most intolerant of those holding opinions different from them and who won’t fall in line with them. They consider Christians (especially conservatives) to be hypocrites, but their own hypocrisy makes the church people look like amateurs in comparison.

Unfortunately Christians (of all persuasions) don’t live up to the standards Jesus established for us. It is impossible. Hence the label “hypocrite.” It is because we are so imperfect that we need a Savior. Nevertheless we should strive for ever better behavior, with the help of God, so that we can be salt and light to this world as Jesus told us to be.

God, through the Apostle Paul, stated that we should have the same attitude as Jesus, as we read in Philippians 2:3-5:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. NIV

Similar to what Jesus taught about servant leadership, this command to think of others more highly is counter-intuitive and goes against our selfish and self-serving nature. As a matter of fact, society tells us to watch out for Number One (ourselves), and that we are not necessarily our brother’s keeper. On the other hand, God tells us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Which principle are you following? Taking care of Number One? Or having a servant attitude, thinking of others before yourself?

This respect for others should not only be a guiding principle in the church, but a guiding principle for life. Respect begins at home, in the family. It should be practiced and taught. Respect also applies to the community and your neighborhood. And it applies to the workplace, especially for those in supervisory positions.

While we may disagree with others, or we may be different from someone, we shouldn’t demonize them or think of them as deserving contempt. No matter what the differences, we can always find some common ground, or often discover more similarities than differences, if we are open and caring. The biggest similarity is that we are all made in the image of God, are God’s beloved creation, and God loves all of us. So as we go out into the world, let us remember these principles. Let God’s love shine through us, even to those we might consider unlovable, because we have to remember that God loves them too.

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