• Respect is more than just tolerance.

    4 Dic 2012, 13:20

    You hear a lot of people in the Christian community (and probably others, as well) preaching this gospel of tolerance. We should tolerate those who don't agree with us in our beliefs. We should tolerate those who have different ideas about who God is or if there even is a deity at all.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, you hear a bunch of people raging against this idea of super-PC-tolerance, and what they want from us is basically a lot of Old Testament style condemnation.

    I don't think either way is the answer.

    When I tolerate something, I allow it to exist. We show tolerance in a way that medieval Christians did not in that almost all of us don't go around killing anybody we think is a heretic. Don't get me wrong, that's definitely progress.

    Still, I think that was not what Jesus preached. Neither was the OT style condemnation (otherwise, it would just be New Testament style). He told us to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors. If that is how we were to behave to people who outright hate us, can you imagine how we should treat people of different religions who treat us well?

    Bottom line is, I think we should all learn to respect each other and our different beliefs. What does that mean? Well, first let's cover what it's not, before I'm misunderstood.

    This kind of respect does not mean simply agreeing to disagree. For people of many religions, including Christianity, theological issues are not just a matter of likes and dislikes. It is disrespectful to expect others (e.g. those of the Islamic faith) to just accept that oh, yes, well just because we believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God doesn't mean that they have to believe He's more than a prophet and that those can both be true. That blatantly undermines the rules laid out for us in the Bible as well as contradicting what the Muslims believe.

    I'm not saying we don't need to believe we're right, or that we should give up proselytizing. I'm saying that we should do so respectfully. We are to follow in Christ's example. Did He go around, knocking down people's doors and threatening them to repent or face hellfire?

    In case you haven't read the New Testament, no. He led by His example of grace and love, and people changed their hearts because of that. Instead of preaching at people, He invited them into His fellowship. He didn't yell "THIS IS THE TRUTH" at them, but instead gave them a reason to want to learn more. So why don't we do that?

    I also need to mention that respect is not a "there are many roads to heaven" mindset. That is not supported in the Bible, and doesn't even make sense when you try to apply it to the real world religions. Many of them (especially Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) have a huge focus on the idea of there only being one God, and only being able to reach Him through a certain way. Therefore, stating that all religions are fully true is both ridiculous and offensive. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't really cover atheists!

    I do include atheists in the "to be respected" column, by the way. I know that we in the Christian community tend to just see the "crazy atheists" who seem to make their lives out of trying to ruin everybody else's. We're familiar with the atheists who post hate on every slightly spiritual thing, in just the same way that the secular community is familiar with "uber-Christians" who are violent, narrow-minded, and kind of scary. Again, respecting them doesn't mean agreeing with them, but it does mean recognizing that they are fellow human beings and are allowed to have a viewpoint.

    This is not incompatible with belief in hell, by the way. As I said above, I don't mean to dissuade people from proselytizing, but I think that everything should be respectful.

    Above all, we should value the person more than what we can do with them. It seems like a lot of Christians (and doubtless, people in other proselytizing religions) see unbelievers as just more souls waiting to get into heaven. Please continue to share the Gospel with those you know, but for heaven's sake, the entire reason you're supposed to want them in heaven is because you love them. We're to love the way that Jesus loves—unconditionally. If you really care about the other people in the world and not just your "saved count", you'll do more than just preach at them. You will not only tolerate them, but respect and love them as well.
  • And Pray For Those Who Persecute You

    16 Feb 2012, 0:50

    "I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44, NIV)

    I was doing some thinking about the second half of this verse, and came to the conclusion that it is even harder than the first half (although they are, of course, two sides of the same coin). Why?

    Sometimes I think I take the first half as a sort of day job. Love my enemies. Okay. I'll love my enemies while I'm going out into the world. I'll love them, be sweet to them, bite my tongue when I want to tell them things I've really thought of them in the past. But my time alone with God...that's mine.

    I have an easy enough time with prayer requests for people I don't know. Even easier when I do know them, and love them and care for them. If a friend is hurting emotionally, physically, whatever, you can bet I'll be on my knees as soon as I'm alone or possibly sooner. Yet, if the same thing happened to someone I didn't happen to get along with...I might roll my eyes, mumble a prayer if I needed more "nice points". Might even laugh.

    That's disgusting and horrible of me. I hope for my sake that those reading this can identify. Just that person that rubs you the wrong way. Maybe there's a history, maybe not. You don't even have to know the person. Maybe a celebrity or politician.

    We say that celebrities these days have lost their dignity, call them "trashy". I don't doubt that's true, but we're the ones stripping them of their dignity when we refuse to see them as people. I admit, while I always avoid the word "hate" when it's a person I know, it'll slip out easily when talking about celebrities, because they're not "real people". How many times a day do I raise a judgmental eyebrow at acts that would be only sad if performed by a friend?

    In the same vein, we don't have to love the actions to love the person. We may absolutely loathe everything a politician stands for, may swear up and down we'll leave the country if he or she is voted in. Might even have a good basis for this. Does that mean that we should hate them? Of course not. Even if they persecuted us openly, we are still to love them, still to pray for them, following His words and example.

    When I do pray for those who hate me or persecute me or don't even know me but happen to bother me by their existence...I tend to go about it all wrong. "Dear God, please guide this person...You know they need it, the filthy heathens." I might not actually say that (who would?) but that is all too often the feeling behind my words.

    So I started something new to me. I prayed for someone I didn't like as if they were the only person I knew, only person I loved. As if they were my best friend, all faults immediately forgiven simply by virtue of my love.

    And it was incredibly freeing. Maybe it sounds a little ridiculous, but I plan to do that every time I'm tempted to open my mouth about somebody. I want to replace gossip and hateful thoughts with love all around, 24 hours a day.
  • Meaning Well—Repost from my Facebook

    16 Ene 2012, 19:24

    I'd like to know something. When, exactly, did "meaning well" become enough?

    Christians today seem to have decided that as long as our intentions (in the vaguest meaning of the word) are pure, there is no need to do more. In essence, we seem to believe that as long as we do nothing, we have not sinned. It doesn't matter if we're only self-seeking and make poor decisions; as long as our "hearts are in the right place", we're good with God.

    For the past few months, I've noticed a common theme in things I've read and seen: the four Greek (cardinal) virtues. Fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence. While these are not specifically Christian virtues, as the philosophy on which they are based predates Christ's coming to Earth, the Church of earlier times adopted them. Certainly we can agree that these virtues are supported in the Bible. It's rare that you could find someone who would disagree with justice, courage, or moderation.

    What about prudence, though? Lately, that word hasn't had the best reputation. According to Webster's, it means: "the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason; sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs; skill and good judgment in the use of resources; caution or circumspection as to danger or risk". We tend to only associate it with this last definition of "caution", but the word was originally used in a much broader sense.

    Even I begin to feel uneasy at this. We're no longer used to thinking of prudence (that is, of ability, shrewdness, good judgment, common sense) as virtuous. Nowadays we're even a little iffy on hard work (part of another set of virtues, known as the seven heavenly virtues). These seem like worldly things, in some strange way.

    Christianity is not merely a religion of the heart. We're not meant to just allow our hearts and inmost being to commune with Jesus, while the rest of us remains "our own". Just as we dedicate our bodies to God (chastity), so we must dedicate our minds to Him. Has it really been so long since Thomas Aquinas placed prudence as the very highest cardinal virtue? We need prudence to be able to perform our God-given functions rightly. Without it, how can we keep the other virtues in check?

    Without common sense, how can we remain restrained, strong, and just? Why is it that we think as long as we know in our hearts that Jesus loves us that we can get away with poor decisions? That's not what He wants for us.

    The last thing I want to do is to sound like I don't think faith, hope, and love are important. Naturally, they are, and I don't doubt that we all need to perfect ourselves in them. I only wonder why we find it so easy to at least profess these virtues while we reject the importance of wisdom and reason?

    Solomon asked for a "wise and discerning heart" (NIV), and this was pleasing to God. Just because we're not all kings doesn't mean it isn't important for us to train ourselves in the sense and wisdom of the Bible. How many times are wisdom, understanding, and discretion mentioned in the Proverbs? Simply because we have a different sort of wisdom than the world doesn't mean that we should ignore these verses.

    Yes, God wants us to be ever-loving, ever-hopeful, and ever-faithful. Reason (in the sense used in the Bible) does not conflict with this objective, for he also wants us to be effective disciples. It's not enough for us to sit around, refusing to do what we're called to do because it's too hard, or others could do it better, or we just aren't smart enough for it. The Bible feeds our minds as well as our souls. We have to do more than "mean well", we have to do well. We must produce good fruit or we will be cut down and thrown into the fire.