January 4, 2017 Farmville Enterprise
Today we’re being inundated with “miracle cures” for weight loss. What if someone could offer you a cure for interpersonal conflict? What if, in 2017, you could have a panacea to stop all family, workplace or community tension? The truth is that people are subjective and we live in a fallen and messy world. Relationships will never be perfect. The great news is that we have the example of a good and loving God who came to this world in the flesh to interact with and save people.
Jesus had dealings with all types of folks. He talked to and cared for the poor, the rich, men, women, children, Jews, Gentiles, Romans and Greeks. Although it takes less effort to stay in our own comfortable circles, our lives are enriched by getting to know various kinds of individuals. Stereotypes are broken down when we spend time in conversation with those who are markedly different than we are. It is easy to label people and make sweeping generalizations when we are not actually familiar with others from vastly different circumstances. This presidential election demonstrated that this country is increasingly polarized. It seems that there are large groups of us who barely speak the same language, in a metaphorical sense. Our experiences have been quite different and therefore our starting points do not coincide. There were many voters on both sides befuddled as to how a Christian could choose the other candidate. I recently reconnected with a gal who had been one of my best friends in elementary school. It turned out that she was an editor for The Washington Post. She asked if we might message each other privately about topics related to politics and social action, as she did not know many people who saw things the way I did. It turned out that what we had witnessed in everyday life had caused us to draw very different conclusions on a wide array of topics. I described a plethora of “conservative Christians” who volunteered at soup kitchens, food pantries, local schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc. She wrote that she had seen almost the opposite of that. It reminded me of the need for Christians of all stripes to engage actively in society and on a personal level with our neighbors. In order to care for others we must listen to and try to understand their struggles. We should attempt to see things from their perspective. In response to their needs, we must treat them the way we would want to be treated and offer the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. A person’s political party, denomination, career path, educational level, marital status or income level does not define her/him. People want to know that they are valued without qualification. In 2017 may we live out these words from the apostle Paul. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)