Today I read a post from a man I “met” on facebook and admire greatly.  It got me thinking, and I want to share it with you.  His first line:
As we’ve discussed before, how often do we or others tend to dismiss others (now-a-days calling them dumb or stupid or worse) if they disagree with us, especially about issues we are passionate about?  I frequently run into people on the internet who will absolutely act like I am the worst person in the world because I have an opinion they disagree with.  So what?  Do you agree with everyone you know?  If you are hanging out only with people who agree with you, you are in big trouble.  We need others in our life to debate with over the issues.   For the Christian, it is even more important to beware of this tendency.  God gave us free will, so we have the right to be wrong.  He may not remove the consequences for our choices, but He will not force us to jump on board either.  (See the discussion on freedom in Part V of the It’s all about the heart series.)
What God sees
God looks beyond the bluster and sees the heart.  If the person is genuine,  their belief system doesn’t make them horrible people.  God loves us in all our sin, and He wants us to show that love in how we interact with those who disagree with us.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree with them.  It does mean we need to treat them with love and absolute respect.  We all have many parts to us.  We all have flaws.  We all believe things that are not true or that others believe are not true.  Instead of tossing a person out as ‘unworthy’ because of something you don’t like, love them anyway and agree to disagree.  My favorite verse, Romans 5:8, says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  If God loves us in all our sin, we must show love to others as well.  God loves sinners.  He doesn’t like sin, but He does love sinners.  I, for one, am SO glad He does!  Sometimes finding common ground can help us see beyond the conflict to the heart of this person.
“While we were  yet sinners, . . . .”

How can others see Christ in us unless we show love?  We do not have to agree with someone to love them.  We do not have to approve of their opinions, values, beliefs or actions to love them.   True love shows respect, even in the midst of the most extreme disagreements.
What do others see in you?
When people interact with you, do they see something different?  Does the love of Christ shine out in how you treat them?  Or, do you give them reinforcement that Christians are rabid haters?  Even taking Christianity out of the equation – do you show yourself as a person worthy of respect by treating others with respect?  How do you feel when others respond in rage to everything you say?  How do you feel when others call you names or curse at you because you don’t believe as they do?  This is a good place to trot out   apply the golden rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  We also need to be aware of the minimize mine/maximize yours effect and keep our own backyard clean not spend all our time criticizing the leaves in the neighbor’s yard if ours is full of garbage.
Be a diligent seeker
If we have in the back forefront of our mind that our goal is to bring glory to Christ, not to win an argument, we should do well.  As a Christian, you may be the only Christ others see – you want to come as close to the real thing as possible.  Even if you are not a Christian, you represent yourself and possibly others.  What others think may not be important to you, but you don’t want to drive away those who could enhance your life.  Character, integrity and honor are characteristics everyone should strive for.   For the Christian, it is even more important to represent Christ in a way that draws others instead of turning them away.
What it’s all about

The world’s mentality is often:  please me!  For the Christian, however, the mentality and the driving force should be: please Christ!  The picture I chose for this section is “God’s Garden”, and it was chosen for a reason.  We are all part of God’s garden.  He planted us, sustains us, and harvests us.   Plants tend to grow toward the light, and we should do the same.  If our face is always turned toward the sun/Son, as we seek the warmth of His love.  Just like a child seeks to please the parent, we seek to please our heavenly Father.   We need to remember the other flowers are watching too, whether from the church garden or the worlds. None of us are perfect, but we can do better than what is often found out there today.  It’s about that diligent seeking.

A huge thank you to Al Hartman for your inspiration for this post and permission to quote you.

Do you treat people with respect and dignity, even when they don’t agree with you?

Why do you think this is important?

How do you handle it when others treat you with disrespect?

Why do you think people treat others who disagree with them with disrespect?

If you are a Christian, what have you done to reflect Christ?

What are some things you have seen Christians do or say to reflect Christ (+) or gave Him a black eye (-). 

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