People…Christian People, Non-Christian People & Backslidden Christian People; they all matter. They matter to God and they should matter to you and me.
Our natural tendency is to separate and divide people into groups and categories so that we can define and characterize the group (avoiding the individual). The “official” description of this activity is stereotyping or profiling. There has been much discussion about racial, ethnic, economic and religious profiling in the media and in the government. The major consensus is that while profiling someone based on their race, color, financial status and/or creed may be expedient there are countless people who do not fit the standard profile for the group they have been placed in. We are all individuals, uniquely created by God, and while we may have some common personality traits and behavior patterns as others who are similar to us we are still unique.
I bring this up because as Christians we have a calling both to the world as well as to the individual. I know this sounds simple but we must remember that communities and nations are made of individuals. It is not the nation that gives its heart to Jesus; it is the individual who does so.
In this message I want to talk about how we treat other people; specifically the people who do not particularly care for us (or vice-versa). Let’s read the words of Jesus:
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
That is one of the most challenging passages of scripture for many people (me included).
We live in a culture that does its very best to create two sides to every issue so that we can find out who is for something and who is against something. The problem is that there are rarely only two sides to any issue. There are some issues that frequently get the blood boiling inside the church and outside of the church as well. Our natural tendency is to demonize or vilify the people who hold the opposite view point from ours. Depending on the issue this may be easy to do; yet it is these very people that Jesus commanded us to love and pray for. It is to these very people that we are to show the character and love of Christ. It is these very people that Christ died on the cross to save.
We can disagree and still love. We can speak the truth and still love. We can see with the eyes of God’s grace instead of with judgment.
Jesus said “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Meekness can be best defined as strength that has been tempered by love. Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The meek person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Galatians 5:22).
There are times when you can win the argument at the expense of losing the relationship. You can be 100% right and 100% wrong all at the same time. We should not be arguing to defend our point because it is ours and we have to let everyone know that we are right. We should not be pointing out the flaws of others merely to declare their shortcomings. Our disagreements should be redemptive in nature. Our concern should be the communicating of truth in a loving manner so that repentance and the receiving of grace may be the result.
Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
People matter; even the people we don’t like. People matter; even the ones who do not like us. People matter…all of them.
Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
This message is normally easy to hear and yet difficult to live. Grace and the power of the Holy Spirit will change our hearts as we repent and submit more of our lives to His will. Do not try to live the Christian life in the strength of your human will – you will fail miserably and be miserable in the process. Instead realize that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)
If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness. (1 John 2:9-11)
Let’s wrap this up with a few points:
- Speak the truth but speak it with love. In other words speak the truth because of the love you have in your heart for the one you are speaking to.
- How we treat people matters. It definitely matters to the other person but it matters supremely to God.
- Christianity will not allow us to say we love God without loving people…all of them.
What I believe makes me a Christian. How I speak to and treat other people proves that I am a Christian.
May each of our lives become more and more like Jesus everyday so that the unbelieving world may be convinced of God’s love by our manner of life.