“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. Matthew 18:15 (NIV)
My friend, Vicki, has started a discussion on her blog about the uncivilized way people promote their political and religious beliefs in the media and in social networking. Go here to read it http://amarkonmywall.wordpress.com/ and make sure you also read the comments to see in a civilized way, how people can agree or disagree with each other.
I am so hyped up about it that you will have to bear with me for I plan to go beyond my self imposed 500 words per post rule. I read her post just as I was preparing to leave to go help that same non profit group I wrote about a few weeks ago that is reviewing and rewriting their By-Laws.
You may remember the group. It is the one where just as I was preparing to launch into my introduction about the importance of our task, I was interrupted by a member asking me, “Who are you and why are you here?”
My initial response to Vicki’s post was to think, “They may have the right to free speech, but I have the right not to listen.” Truly, that has been my attitude for years.
In Florida, all government meetings generally have a time of “Citizen Comment.” That is where anyone can get up and for two minutes talk about anything uninterrupted regardless of the subject matter of the meeting or who is in the audience. For years during the Bush administration, one woman got up every Tuesday and spit out accusations about “G.W.” that our County Commission could do nothing about but sit politely and listen. I cringed through it all, just like I now cringe when I hear the same things about our current president.
Some people think that civic dialogue has gotten worse over the ages. I don’t think so; I think it is just more evident due to the media and the Internet. When speaking to groups about our community’s history, I love to pull out two letters to the editor from 1860. What is on the surface a debate over the location of the county seat, is in actuality a power pull between two political groups, the old established crowd along the river and the newer arrivals farther inland. In one, Tax Collector James Green calls Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners Ezekiel Glazier, a “wide mouth politician.” That brings a lighthearted moment in my speech because it sounds so benign, but in 1860, I am sure that those were fighting words.
As much as I flinch when I hear stereotypes about political parties, I ache inside when I hear such trash tossed around about Christians. No, not all Republicans are war mongers and not all Democrats are socialists. Neither are all Christians burning the Quran and shooting doctors who perform abortions. A broad brush approach is wrong no matter who you are talking about.
How much better to set aside these attitudes that divide and instead build a relationship with people, even those people that you might not agree with. As a Christian, I am to be a “Little Christ.” Therefore, if I follow Christ, I will go to the house of the prostitute, I will take pity on the leper, I will gather little children and offer them protection from those who would try to exploit them.
Yes, Jesus did tear up the temple once when He saw the money changers turning it from a house of worship into a place of business and thievery. But, even that anger was promoted by His compassion for the people who were being taken advantage of. Jesus lived His life exhibiting a Holy love for those who society treated the worst.
So, what should we do when people, even those we love the most, act or speak with prejudice or meanness? Even though it has been mocked and disparaged, the phrase, “W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do?)” comes to mind here. As Jesus taught, we should go to the offender and speak to them privately. Try to reason with someone with love and care. No public floggings, no multi media broadcasts and certainly no grandstanding.
But, this approach requires a relationship with the one who has misspoken in order that you earn the right for them to listen to you. I go back to that question I was asked in that By-Laws meeting, “Who are you and why are you here?” I speak loudest by my actions. Not my words, no matter how eloquent they might be.