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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Word For The Week

You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

It is amazing just how much drama could be avoided if people treated each other with a modicum of respect. Countless wars have been fought because one leader or country felt disrespected by another. World War II came about in large part because the Germans felt disrespected by the Treaty of Versailles - they essentially fought World War I to a draw but they were treated like a defeated nation. How many millions of lives could have been saved through treating Germany with some respect in 1919? How much pain and suffering could have been avoided by treating people with respect? How many issues in our own lives could have been avoided if the situations had been dealt with respectfully?

Loving your enemies is nothing more than treating them with respect, treating them like human beings, treating them like we would want to be treated, not how we would expect to be treated. If I were running for elective office then I would expect my opponent to dig through my background (oppo research) and find unflattering things to make me appear to be unqualified for office, but I would want him to engage me on the issues that are actually relevant to the constituents of the district. In this case Jesus commands us to eschew mud-slinging and negative campaigning since that is not consistent with loving our enemies, treating them with respect. In fact, negative campaigning is quintessentially disrespectful - it promotes contempt for your opponent, driving up their negative ratings. We who are called by the name of Christ are not to promote contempt for anyone, we are to be Jesus Christ's ambassadors, spreading His message of reconciliation to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who would persecute us, even in political campaigns.

That extends to our phone conversations, too.

The nastiest mud-slinging that you will ever find is when people get to talking about someone over the phone, running their name through the mud, talking about them like they have a tail. In many ways it resembles a feeding frenzy when chum is tossed into shark-infested waters. It looks a lot like the LAPD beating on Rodney King. It is eerily reminiscent of those klansmen beating on Emmet Till. When people get to talking bad about someone it can get ugly in a hurry, and the end result is that the person is treated with a lack of respect from there on out, they are treated in ways that have nothing to do with love.

That is sin.

We love to talk about those people and their sinful lifestyles - and they are indeed sinful - but we have a lot of sin that we have to address as well, first and foremost being the lack of love that we show for those who we perceive to be our enemies, the lack of respect that we show for people who believe differently, think differently, or look differently from us. Even though people who reject Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior are destined for hellfire we are still to love them, to treat them with respect, to deal with them the same way with which we would want to be dealt. People who think differently from us may indeed be facilitating the destruction of this country as we have known it, but we still must treat them with respect, loving them as we would want to be loved - from a distance in most instances - and giving them the respect that is due to God's creation. How did Aretha put it?

Find out what it means to me.

We have to treat everyone with the utmost respect, from our best friends to those folks who we would rather never see again. Loving someone and treating them with respect does not mean that you feel anything for them, it doesn't mean that you have any positive emotion regarding them, it means that you deal with them in positive ways when you have to deal with them. In many instances the most loving thing that you can do for someone is removing yourself from their presence, telling them that you can not deal with them in a loving manner and since you don't want to bring them harm you have to separate yourself from them until such time as you can deal with them in a loving manner. Loving a crackhead doesn't mean giving them money - it means cutting them off and getting them into rehab. Loving an abusive spouse doesn't mean submitting to fists of fury, it means getting out of his (or her!) presence until s/he has learned how to channel their emotions. Loving our enemies doesn't mean letting them have their way with us, it means treating them respectfully, telling them "No" instead of telling them where to go and how to get there. It's an issue of attitude, and our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus our Lord. Our basic disposition should be one of love, not in the passive doormat sense but in the sense that we treat everyone with respect, that we want that which is best for everyone, that we are concerned about the well-being of everyone. After all, worldly folks love their friends; worldly folks look after their own; worldly folks deal with people according to the manner in which they are treated, but we are called to be bigger than that. We are called to better than that. We are called to be the bearers of Jesus Christ's image, but with too many Christians when the world looks at us they see nothing more than a reflection of themselves - game recognize game and carnal recognize carnal.

Be perfect, therefore, as our heavenly Father is perfect.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to Him,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM

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