A better way
John A. Braun
Sensitivity and consideration for another’s point of view have taken a back seat. They are rendered powerless by strong emotion, shouting, and personal attacks. Expressing an opinion on social media sometimes invites vicious personal attacks or even threats of violence. It’s guerilla warfare in most relationships that often waits for the “gotcha” moment and then pounces with malicious bitterness.
Even a mention of Jesus’ words, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), holds little force. One might see a slight nod of agreement, but the volume of conflicting voices does not diminish. And besides, so it is said, such ancient wisdom is just that— ancient—and it flows from an old-fashioned and outmoded Christian morality.
Those who object to such morality demonize, marginalize, and even violently oppose other viewpoints. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. These things happened to Jesus while he was here on earth. Demonized? “It is only by . . . the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons” (Matthew 12:24). Marginalized? How many times did the leaders of the Jews challenge his words? And finally they plotted to kill him. They concluded, “It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50).
The attitudes of conflict and anger stretch beyond conversation. Domestic violence and sexual abuse persist in spite of all the voices condemning both. A man shoots another because of a disagreement over a parking place. Another throws flares out a car window, starting a fire that destroys homes and lives. Still another shoots a police officer because he won’t return to prison after breaking his parole. Drive-by shootings kill children and adults not involved in the conflict. Mothers abandon their children for sex, drugs, or gambling.
God has a clear indictment: the Ten Commandments. In order to live together in a community with others, each of us should respect life, authority, marriage and sex, the property of others, and the good name of others. These are God’s directions for loving others.
There’s more to it, of course. Jesus also gave us the First Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37,38). For us, the second command to love others simply flows out of our faith in a God who has purchased and won us through the perfect suffering and death of his Son. But for some, personal opinion and agendas trump those principles. Their priority is what is right for them and not what is right for us all together under the care of our heavenly Father.
We live in a society that has marginalized and demonized our message—not only the message of God’s grace in Christ but also the message that flows from that grace: love for others. We have all experienced the temptation to join the shrill voices on one side or the other. At times we have found it easier—at least according to our sinful nature—to yield to anger and frustration in order to retaliate or make our point.
Jesus asks us to enthrone two principles in our hearts: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart. . . . Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). I don’t think that either commandment has grown old-fashioned or obsolete.
Because we understand them, we listen when he directs, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). It may be difficult to follow his directions, “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3,4). But consider Jesus before the high priest or Pilate. He showed us how.
John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018
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