Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
The Apostle Paul had plenty of bickering to break up in the early years of the Church. Whether in Galatia, Philippi, or other blossoming congregations, new believers had to be reminded to keep their pride in check and to exhibit the love of Christ through their unity.
What would Paul say about the Church if he were alive today? As God's mouthpiece, he was closely connected to the heart of his Maker, his ear tuned to Divine insight and instruction. Lord knows, he would still be breaking up in-fighting.
Yet, in this generation, it seems that everyone is REALLY ANGRY. We have come to a point in history, especially in America, where we cannot even have constructive conversation or discuss different ideas in a civil manner.
Paul didn't have social media in his age. People couldn't say atrocious things hiding behind the facade of anonymity provided by a computer screen. Christian couldn't lob grenades of self-righteousness at one another and then shut down dialog with a simple click of "unfriend."
Today, I see brothers and sisters in Christ tearing one another apart on all manner of things. With great indignation and moral authority, one side argues for racially charged rioting, while another demeans racial concerns. One side decries the affects of vaccinations, while the other side mocks them as ignorant alarmists. Many cry out to defend the value of life as the horrors of "choice" are exposed, while others blame those same defenders for abortion clinic shootings. Some say that you are not a Christian if you don't welcome Syrian refugees carte blanche, while others call that position complete foolishness. One camp says "Jesus would bake gays a wedding cake," while others panic over the notion of losing their biblical values. Some look down their nose at anything that isn't gluten-free, casein-free, and organic, while others laugh at this approach as the latest neurotic fad.
It's not even the fact that we each have different points of view on these things. It's how we treat one another when we have opposing viewpoints.
The disdain with which we treat one another -- fellow brothers and sisters in Christ -- when we have different points of view would have Paul turning over in his grave. The language and hatred we hurl at one another when we don't agree on any given topic is appalling. We type terrible, inflammatory insults like "libtard," (one term that just about sends me through the roof). We discredit others by mocking their choice of news channels, deeming in our moral superiority that only our preferred news sources are "credible." We call each other "hypocrites," all while acting like total and complete hypocrites.
Is it any wonder the world is such an angry place? Satan is tearing us apart from within.
Since the first of my children was diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, I committed myself to speaking to our cadre of professionals with respect. I continue to make every effort to assert myself as an advocate, while still treating others with the love of Christ. What this looks like is being kind to my children's teachers, even if I am having difficulties with how they are treating my child in school. It means I am polite but persistent with my children's doctors. It means I am merciful with the insurance representative on the phone, because I know they don't make the rules and are just trying to do their job. I don't always get it right, but the habit of kind diplomacy grows as I practice it over a lifetime.
It is a skill worth pursuing, because we seem to have lost the ability to love people without loving everything about them. Everyone need not hear our point of view on everything. What a shallow, irritable world we create for ourselves when we only dispense kindness to those who think just like us. Eventually, we will find ourselves very alone, because we will never agree with another person on everything one-hundred-percent of the time.
It is past time that we heed the warnings and admonitions that Paul gave to the early Church. Elevate the conversation! We need to humble ourselves, pray, and give more care to the way we treat one another. When people see the difference with which we treat one another, God's light shines brighter in this dark world. And Lord knows, we could all do with a whole lot less anger and a whole lot more love!
PRAY: Jesus, You tell us, "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Put your arm around our shoulders and your hand over our mouths! Help us to treat one another the way we would like to be treated, so that when people see us, they see YOU in us.
~ Barb Dittrich