This week I’ve learned to bite my tongue. Or I’m trying to at least. I’m learning that arguments don’t always convince others and, in fact, can be detrimental. I’m learning the importance of being informed and just how infuriating misinformation can be. I’m learning that it’s good to stand up for what you believe in but it also means people won’t always like you.
I do believe that as Christians we are called to stand up for justice. The Bible instructs us continuously to defend widows and orphans, the lowest and most vulnerable people of the time. In our day we could replace those words with children and the homeless, minorities and immigrants. At the same time the Bible unequivocally tells us to love one another. It’s the number two thing we’re instructed to do after loving God. It’s that important. Standing up for others is a part of that love but we’re called to love both the oppressor and the oppressed. That’s insanely difficult. And, honestly, that’s not something I’m able to do of my own accord. There’s a lot in the world to get angry about. This passage in Romans has meant a lot to me this week:
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21)
I’ve highlighted the parts that have really spoken to me this week but, seriously, I could highlight the whole thing. I feel like I could write a book about this, speaking mostly to myself. There’s so much wisdom here. So much beautiful, difficult wisdom. Did you notice that we are called to “love one another”, not just “love the people you like and who think the same things as you”? And not just that but Paul (the guy who wrote the books of Romans) takes it even further and tells us we should “bless those who persecute” us, that we should feed them, give them a drink, “seek to show hospitality”. The last thing I want to do with someone who is rude to me, or disagrees with something I strongly believe in, is invite them over for dinner.
I think the last sentence is maybe the most important. I’m inclined to believe that if I’m standing up against evil then I won’t be overcome by it. “Look at me, I’m standing up for justice! I’m doing the right thing! Those people on the other side are misinformed idiots!” But I think Paul might actually be warning us against another kind of evil. If I become so stubborn in my own convictions (whether or not they’re right), I can become blind to the people around me and I fall prey to hatred. When you forget that there are real people on the other side of an argument – real people with real emotions and lives – we can be overcome by hatred and evil. Not to mention that Paul also tells us, “Never be wise in your own sight.” Yikes, that’s another one I have to work on.
The good news is that we’re not left to do all this on our own. You know who’s really, really, really good at loving us? Yup, it’s the classic Sunday School answer – Jesus! I know that I’m only going to fail at loving my enemies unless I can learn to see them the way Jesus sees them. As people who He died for, just the same way He died for me.
So that’s what God’s teaching me this week. What are you learning?
I took this picture on Monday. I love how you can see the storm coming in.