Yesterday, I wrote about the idea that we have lost the ability to disagree with one another and yet treat one another with respect in this society. In fact, I put it this way: “Our society has lost the ability to have a civil discussion/debate without becoming belligerent.” You can read that whole post here. Today, I want to continue that idea, but focus in on what Christ followers should be doing in this culture of yelling, screaming, and just down right divisive behavior.
As I’ve written in other posts recently, we cannot expect a society that doesn’t know Jesus to live by our morals, because our morals are developed by following Jesus. I think treating each other with respect is something that we should expect from everyone though. That is just descent human behavior that we seem to have lost the ability to demonstrate. But Christ followers should be better than society. Unfortunately, in my experience, we are just as bad, if not worse than others in this behavior at times.
We cannot expect a society that doesn’t know Jesus to live by our morals, because our morals are developed by following Jesus.
You know as well as I do; we will never be perfect (not this side of heaven anyway). But we should be striving to be the best we can be, and not through our own power. The more we follow Christ, the more we should be transformed into His image. And when we take a step back someway, we just dust ourselves off and try to continue to move forward in our walk. One of the best ways we do this is being connected to a community of believers. We cannot become like Christ on our own. The author of Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 10:24, 25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Christ followers, first and foremost, you need to be connected to a community of fellow believers. That is the first step in treating others with respect. But it goes much further than that. Why should we treat others with respect? Why should we live in peace with those around us, even when they don’t show any signs of living at peace with us? Paul addresses this exact topic in one of my favorite chapters of one of my favorite letters of Paul. In Romans 12 (you can read the whole chapter here), Paul pens some very frustrating, scary, yet important words for us. In Romans 12:14-21, Paul challenges our normal human behavior, and asks us to turn from it. He writes;
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
That’s tough. When someone hurts us, our first thought is usually about how we can get back at them. But Paul tells us to walk away from that. He says to not repay evil for evil. Even tougher, in my opinion, he says that when possible, as long as it is up to us, live at peace with everyone. Everyone. Not just those you agree with. Not just those that are nice to you. Not just those that show you respect. EVERYONE! Come on. Why should we do that? Well, if you’re a Christ follower, then your ultimate mission is to share Jesus with as many people as you can. If you’re yelling and arguing with someone that doesn’t know Jesus, that’s going to make it very hard for the gospel to ever get through. And it’s not just about sharing Jesus with them. It’s because we are to be imitating Christ, and He would live at peace with everyone.
Christ followers, first and foremost, you need to be connected to a community of fellow believers.
Does that mean He agrees and approves of everyone’s lifestyle and choices? Absolutely not. Doe that mean that everyone will treat Him with respect? Nope. But how someone treats Him (and you, if you are trying to imitate Him) should bare no impact on how you treat them. Believe me, I know that seems so hard. Almost like an impossible task. And if we were trying to do it on our own, it would be an impossible task. We have to rely on God’s power to help us accomplish living at peace.
This is not going to be easy in the world that we live in. We are so divided in this country that it is almost unbelievable at this point. We might fail at times in living peaceably, but we can commit to growing through the process of becoming more and more like Him.
I have one thing that I think I can guarantee. And I want you to be aware of it before you start this process. I think it is important to know what you are getting into. If you are truly a Christ follower, becoming more and more like Jesus as you get to know Him better, people are not going to make it easy for you to live at peace. They are going to treat you poorly. Because of Jesus, people will hate you. But no matter how they treat you, you are to live at peace with them. Jesus said in Mark 13:12, 13;
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
The key in all of this is simple. One, we can only do this through the power of Christ living in us. Two, from Paul’s thoughts on the subject, “as far as it depends on you…”. You see, we are responsible for how we react. How someone else treats us does not give us the right to become belligerent with them. So if someone is treating you like a king, or beating you down on a daily basis, we are called to live at peace with them.
When possible, as long as it is up to us, live at peace with everyone. Everyone. Not just those you agree with. Not just those that are nice to you. Not just those that show you respect. EVERYONE!
Tomorrow, I am going to look at part three of this idea. We’ve discussed so far the idea that whether we are Christ followers or not, we should treat everyone with respect, and if we could do that, this world would be a much better place. Today, we looked at the idea that if we are Christ followers, no matter how someone treats us, we need to live at peace with them and treat them with respect. Tomorrow, and I need to give my wife credit for the idea, I am going to explore what we should do when Christ followers attack other Christ followers. Unfortunately we are seeing that more and more, so we need to discuss that to wrap up our 3-part series of treating one another with respect. Until then…