God's incredible Creation is teeming with richness and intricacy. Yet human nature seems inclined toward the idea that many people can be quickly evaluated and tagged with labels which capture their essence. Keeping up with the hurried pace of the world, we often work to make interactions with others as efficient as possible, particularly those we differ with, saving effort but neglecting relationships. Even in the Church we can struggle at times with the Lord's command to invest in others as well as ourselves. (Philippians 2:4) Should this approach become habit, ultimately the mind can disengage and we may cease listening all together. How then shall we detect a need in the life of our brother or sister?
Beyond eschewing blessings and edification orchestrated by God, this practice divides the Body. We are each susceptible to contentiousness and idly employing popular expressions to attempt to invalidate opposing views, particularly in the present politically-charged social climate. I've caught myself forming opinions in this dangerous manner--nearly before another person has finished a sentence, I have them figured out. For example, we might seek to corrupt credibility during debates over social issues by mentally (or verbally) labeling others as "liberals", "fundamentalists", "extremists", etc. Valid or invalid, terms applied so shallowly sabotage relationship. Battle lines are quickly drawn and a sort of emotional scorching widens the rift between the two sides, stifling opportunity for understanding and growth. It's like assessing the value of a house based solely on the siding! God has created human beings with much more depth and value than that. Where is Jesus Christ in our relationships?
Too often, labeling others is justified under the guise of biblical correction. But I need to be careful where I attach the authority of God's word. While I am certainly not required to affirm another's perspective where unsound, within the Body God does instruct us to "make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." (Romans 14:19) Paul is addressing conflict over legality of Christians partaking of certain foods and behaviors. The idea seems readily applicable here as well: a goal of every believer in Jesus Christ must be to seek peace with others, even if we differ, and to build them up with our words and actions. We must take great care to avoid standing on Scripture's authority to support our personal preferences. Colossians 3:15-16 instructs, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" (not emotion or defensiveness) "...let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish...." Peace and the Word both must accompany admonishment.
Habits formed over many years are never easy to change. Our present culture in the United States has made it easy to be careless, oblivious to the heart our words may wound. So let us consider today whether our speech and attitude invite repentance or resentment. To be effective emissaries for Christ, we must reject the destructive patterns of the world which offer only alienation. The Lord has provided Himself as our model in the gospels. Following His path of peace, truth and honoring our brothers will bring us closer to heart of the Father and to the rest of our holy family.
Scripture Taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Writing since 2000, I live in the Seattle area with my wife and three children. My passion is to draw others to a more intimate knowledge & love of Jesus through fiction & non-fiction. To contact me, you may send an IM from my FW profile page or visit my website below.
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