Romans 15:1-2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
15 We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.
How often do we look down on others for something they can’t help. So many who suffer from mental illness are thought of as “less than.” They may be functioning members of society fighting their demons every day but that is something we can’t see. It is so easy to be judgmental. Never presume weakness. It may actually be enormous strength that we can’t see.
Ephesians 4:31-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
This world needs this verse from Ephesians. Everyone seems so angry. So much division and hatred. It seems to me to every major religion in its pure form teaches peace, compassion and love. Put away your anger and bitterness and every day show your love for one another.
We so often want God to think the way we do. We are right and our view of justice should be done. We often think about an “eye for an eye” which actually tells us to not ask for more retribution than we are actually due. But God is not us and does not look at things the same ways we do.
As Isaiah says of God, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Yet I am afraid we often pull God down into “our thoughts.” We naively and erroneously think fear, anger, intimidation, threat, and punishment are going to lead people to love. Show me where that has worked. We cannot lead people to the highest level of motivation by teaching them the lowest. God always and forever models the highest—love—and our task is always to “imitate God” (Ephesians 5:1). From the meditation of Richard Rohr
God is love and love is always his answer.
Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
Our behavior sets the tone for how we will be treated. These things in the quote are earned. Christ had respect for everyone he saw. No one was beneath him. Even the homeless on the streets deserve respect.
Even though I am a Christian I believe that there are things to learn from other faiths. My understanding is the Jewish faith concentrates on what you do with your life, Muslims stop their day to pray multiple times, Buddhists spend time in contemplation.
These are all things that I can admire and use in my own faith.
When visitors come to a worship service in my own religious tradition, a great deal depends on how warmly they are welcomed and whether they feel included or excluded by what they hear during the whole time they are with us. We may have exactly one shot at communicating who we are to people who know nothing about us–or who think they already know a lot about us–but who, in either case, will remember us as the embodiment of out entire tradition, the prime exemplars of our faith.
Barbara Brown Taylor in “Holy Envy”
I had a friend who said “you may be the best Christian someone knows.” That is a scary thought. What do the people around us learn about Christianity from how we behave. Do we live up to what we say?
Following the rules can be good but sometimes the rules can be stifling. We have to learn when the rules keep us in a safe place and when they need to be discarded. In our religion rules can be either. Discernment is needed to see when they are helping us to follow Christ’s way or when they are holding us back. Throwing out the rules in favor of heeding Christ’s word can be scary. Sometimes doing so can be disruptive and does not show respect for those around you. When, where and how must be chosen carefully. Much prayer and listening is needed but there are times when stepping out in faith is important.
We can end up in a box created by rules. The rules are supposed to allow us to move closer to God. Some of the rules seen in ritual can help us to “center down” and experience God. Bowing at a certain time, in some faiths taking your shoes off in a holy space, genuflecting, saying the proper responses can make you part of the experience.
However, some rules that are more related to following Christ’s actions may not be for you. These are not true of all Christian denominations but each denomination has their own set. Rules that keep us from reaching out in compassion to all others by condemning them do not seem to be Christ’s idea. He treated all people with love.
Some ideas block us in and make us feel unworthy: You are not knowledgeable enough. You are not educated enough. You are not holy enough. Most of all you must believe what those around you believe. You must see the same God that they do even though in truth none of us see the same God in our minds. These things keep us in the box.
These things can be meaningful if we do them because they move us in an emotional way closer to God. They can make us comfortable. But if we are doing them just to follow the rules then they put us in a box. In the box we must follow the rules in order to be accepted by God but the truth is that we are already accepted by God’s grace. There is nothing we can do to make us perfect enough to reach the level of God. No matter how hard we try.
I don’t remember anywhere in the Bible that Christ told anyone they could not heal or bless. He encouraged his disciples to baptize in the name of the father. He never said anything about forming a church or setting people apart from others. He encouraged us to go and make disciples of ALL. He said we could do all these things on our own. He never said you needed anyone’s permission except that you follow the 2 great commandments; love god, love one another. I will do my best to follow that.
Today it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them. –Mother Teresa
This is so true! Most of us would prefer to avoid the homeless or those begging on our streets. We see them as “less than” us. It’s as if we are concerned about becoming contaminated by them. We have to begin to look through Jesus’ eyes and see them as children of God just like us. Then we will be willing to talk with them.
Suffering is a journey deeper into the heart of life. From the movie The Human Experience
How shallow we can be if we have had very little problems in our lives. We just float through each day wondering why other people seem to struggle so. Compassion for those suffering is hard to grasp since we have nothing to measure it against. Travail in life is not what we would choose. But the fire of its pain brings the beauty of understanding and love for those who suffer.
Compassionate God, you sent you son to suffer and in so doing chose to experience our pain, sorrow, and grief. Help us to use what we have learned in our own trials to ease the path of others.