By: Dennis Bates
Do you ever disagree with somebody? Ever argue, maybe even have an heated exchange of words? I wish I could say no to those questions, but if I did I’d hear laughter and then screaming from my Amarillo counterpart clear up here in Iowa, and my hearing isn’t nearly as good as it used to be these days.
To be totally honest I am one of those people who was born on the other side of almost any issues you could think of. If I’m not on the other side of that issue, I can flip to it almost without giving it any thought. And I frequently do. That’s not always a good thing.
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” That’s one of my “go-to” verses, especially when I’m feeling particularly ornery. I’ve been going to it a lot lately.
But what do you do when somebody’s just wrong? Do you sit idly by and not respond just so you can be at peace? Do you look the other way, or agree, just so you won’t be contentious. And what if they attack you personally or they disparage someone you love? Do you sit and do nothing? To be candid, I don’t. But it’s how we respond even when we disagree that sets us apart as Christians. And I’m afraid I fail here more than we succeed.
We all know that Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44 that we should love our enemies, because even the pagans love those who love them back. We also know that Jesus demonstrated that love when he prayed for the soldiers who mocked him and killed him. He even asked God to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing.
Our duty is greater than that. Jesus didn’t provide us with a new set of laws that we had to follow to receive salvation; he provided us with an entirely new way of looking at things. He didn’t want blind obedience; he wanted changed hearts and he gave several examples about turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. But those were examples of the type of thing we needed to do to have the changed hearts he sought.
When people who call themselves Christians call the President of the United States stupid, is that love? For that matter, when we call anybody stupid, is that love? When we argue constantly about who is right or wrong when it comes to specific church doctrine, is that love?
I may be guessing here, but I think Jesus would prefer that we love someone we disagree with instead of converting that person to our particular doctrine. I think he would prefer us to love our enemies more than overcome them with brute force. That only makes the hate run deeper.
Violence does beget more violence, but sometimes the violence of our words and unloving thoughts and comments is the worst kind of violence there is. A changed heart is not a violent heart, but a heart at peace, no matter what the other guy does or says.