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Posts Tagged ‘liberal’

Last weekend I went to a workshop in Atlanta called “ElderLink.” It’s designed for elders and other leaders in churches. One of the speakers was a man named Randy Harris. He’s a professor of theology, but you would never know it; he didn’t sound at all like a theology professor. One of the freebies participants received was a copy of his book, Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount. A number of things he said, as well as what he writes in his book, spoke to me. I wish to mention only two.

The first startling revelation is that what we have come to call the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) are not commands; rather they are blessings that were pronounced to a crowd of mostly poverty-stricken peasants, who must have felt anything but blessed. It reminds me of a message I heard from another speaker named Lynn Anderson in the 1970s in which he describes a worn down single mother who came to him after he had preached what he thought at the time was the gospel. Her response spoke volumes. “I’m glad I ain’t a Christian. It’s tough enough just bein’ a sinner.” You see, the beatitudes are not commands (“You had better live like this or else.”). Rather they are the pronouncement of blessings that are available to us from a loving Father.

We could focus on any of the Beatitudes, but one in particular has haunted me this week. It’s verse 9—“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Although Randy Harris is not the first to make the point, what he says is certainly true. “Have you ever noticed that nobody really appreciates a peacemaker? You know, those people who refuse to get drawn into the violence and confusion and hostility of their age, but simply by their presence create peace.” It’s true. Peacemakers are often seen as weak, compromising people with no principles they are willing to stand up for. We really don’t like them.

The advent of social media (including blogs) has made it so easy to put our ideas out to the world. Too often it has taken the form of venom that I am convinced we would never say to a person face-to-face. People forward links to others who spout the venom for them on Facebook or Twitter, without bothering to check the facts at snopes.com or in some other way. In most instances these postings are not true, and so it makes us look gullible and mean-spirited.

I received a second reminder just last night. During a Wednesday night service we read from Psalm 37. I was struck forcefully by verses 7 and 8. “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.” (NLT).

I must admit (before someone who knows me reminds me) that being a peacemaker doesn’t always come natural to me. There are so many things going on in this world that I believe are wrong and, left unchecked may bring us to ruin. And it is so easy to respond in anger. But I have decided that I would rather be remembered as a peacemaker than a crusader. And I do want to see it as a blessing, rather than a command. There is so much hatred in this world. Do we really need to add more to it? And if we cannot advance our “causes” without anger, perhaps we should consider whether we are the ones to advance them.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

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We have all heard the saying, “The only things certain are death and taxes.” I would suggest that there are two more things that, while not certain, are quite probable.

  1. We are convinced that we are objective.
  2. We are not.

I freely admit that I tend to be fairly conservative on political matters, and perhaps more moderate on religious issues.  Here’s my question to you. When you read that statement, did it cause you to tune me out, because obviously I had nothing of value to say? Did it make you more likely to read on, because you felt I was more in tune with your own thinking?

We cannot learn if we are unwilling to entertain alternate views. It is our responsibility to examine other ideas and to consider what value they may have. It would also be more productive if we present our views in a manner that would attract honest seekers who may disagree with them, challenging them, but respecting them as well.

I came across a comment on a blog today. Part of it read, “Discussing it [the Bible] with someone who believes exactly like you believe is like discussing important matters with a mirror.”  Remember, it’s easy to win an argument with a mirror.

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Earlier I tried to write a post about the tragedy at Newtown, but even as I wrote it, I recognized how flat it was. I read a number of posts various people have put forth. None of them resonated with me. I determined that I needed to be quiet for a few days. To think; to listen; to pray. We shall never know what complex influences, inner demons, or mental issues combined to drive Adam Lanza to commit these horrible acts. If he had lived, he might have been able to provide an explanation that made sense to him, but I doubt anything he could have said would have satisfied the rest of us.

Out of all the complex emotions I have experienced, one thought keeps coming back to me. In various forms I have said it before, and it is what I would leave you with. We have become a nation in which hate is not only acceptable; often it is considered a virtue. We feel that if our cause is right, we are allowed to hate those who oppose it. Republicans, democrats, gay rights advocates, evangelical Christians, on and on goes the list of people we feel it is okay to hate.

I am a Christian, which means I am commanded by God to love even my enemies. That is not a command to have warm fuzzy feelings about people whose beliefs or practices are repugnant to me. It is a command to love them in the Greek “agape” sense. This means that I wish and will work for the best for every human being I encounter. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS!

While unconditional love is simple to understand, it can be terribly difficult to practice. Yet we dare not become satisfied with anything less.

We must stop hating other people. It is that simple, and it is that hard.

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As you may already have noticed, occasionally I will depart from the overall theme of this blog. Perhaps you will think that is what I am doing today. Actually, I posted some of these same ideas on my other blog, but something I read yesterday on Twitter motivated me to revisit the subject. First of all, while I like to think of myself as a moderate, let me admit that I am in most areas a political conservative (the dreaded “C” word). Before you turn me off (which is actually the topic I want to explore), please hear me out for a moment.

Yesterday I read a post with a title that sounded encouraging. It suggested that whatever we believe are the best solutions to our problems, we should be united in understanding and caring about those problems. I can’t say what the writer intended to portray, but after reading the post, I came away with the impression that he was saying that unless you adopt his particular agenda, you are selfish, unfeeling, and uncaring. It appeared to me that the writer invented a straw man to represent the conservative viewpoint and then proceeded to demonize that straw man. It was obvious to me that he had no understanding of my views, my reasons for holding them, or my attitudes toward those in our country who are in need of help. I would also like to emphasize that I have read articles by conservatives who demonize liberals in similar ways.

A few years ago I worked with a man whose views were as liberal as mine are conservative. We became friends and took our breaks together. Invariably we talked about the two taboos—religion and politics. How could we do that and remain friends? The answer was simple.

We respected each other’s integrity.

We never ridiculed the other person’s views.

We always tried to understand what each of us was really trying to say.

I always looked forward to our discussions, and I came away from them feeling good—about myself and the other person. The discussions helped me face the reality of my views. In a few instances, the other man’s insight caused me to moderate my understanding. Honestly, in most areas, my views remained essentially unchanged—as did his.

But that wasn’t the point. I believe we both came away understanding something of how much we agreed on, as well as the reality that neither of us was the devil the media so often portrays us to be. Yes, we disagreed on the best way to deal with our multitude of problems; especially the role government should play. But we both recognized that each side has concerns which deserve to be acknowledged and respected.

Liberal or conservative, do not allow politicians or the media to paint your fellow Americans as enemies. Be very careful about imputing motives, especially on those with whom we disagree. Unless you know someone really well, it is virtually impossible to look into their heart with any degree of accuracy. Disagreeing with someone’s ideas does not make that person less than honorable.

I would encourage each of us to seek out the equivalent of the relationship I had with the individual at work.

Get together.

Talk things through.

Seek out areas in which you agree. You will find that there are likely a multitude of them.

Freely acknowledge differences, without questioning one another’s character.

Most of all, really listen to the other person.

America includes liberals, conservatives, and every element in between. At various times, one or the other view may appear to have the upper hand. But, as we seek to change what we feel needs to be changed, let us do so with mutual respect and understanding.

That is my view today. I would like to hear yours.

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