I’ve been thinking recently about people. Now, I have always been task-oriented and motivated. As a Christian I knew that task-oriented style had to be tempered by a love for people. Unfortunately, though I attempted to consider the feelings of others, most of the time I ended up running over them anyway. My best effort at regarding their feelings almost always fell short. That’s not to say that I didn’t try – at least I did that! But I have noticed that few people groups obliterate their own like Christians do. I’m not exactly sure why this is, but I do have a hunch.
I think Christians have a slight conflict of interest going on where people are concerned. When people make mistakes or don’t follow the “rules” like we think they should, we ostracize them because we feel like we have to choose between that person and God. So, in a backwards way, we judge others to defend God. But that assumes that God’s character is marred by the mistakes other’s make. We can make God “look bad.” And maybe we can. But I’ve come to believe that when we judge others, that looks worse than anyone’s mistake may bring upon God. Ostracizing and condemning others for the sake of the gospel is a good example of how easy it is to try to protect Christianity by breaking some of its most basic tenents.
In Psalm 51, David, though he had wrecked Bathsheba’s marriage, killed Uriah, and crippled the reputation of Israel, he says to God, “Against you and you alone have I sinned.” Huh? Why apologize to God? Why not apologize to everyone else? The Hebrews believed that to insult another was to insult God. Each person is made in the image of God – to criticize another is to criticize their Maker. That’s why Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus said, “Let the honor of your neighbor be as dear to you as your own.” Essentially, a Christian’s relationship with God is reflected in how he/she treats others. Does that mean Christians should be blindly accepting of everything? Of course not. But it does mean that when doctrinal rifts cause us to malign and belittle others, we are choosing to value beliefs over people. And that’s never okay. I did that a few posts back…yesterday I removed that post. Determining if someone is wrong about something doesn’t give me (or anyone else) the right to demean them for those beliefs. Besides, in my opinion, debate is just a fancy word for strife – something the Bible clearly speaks against. People don’t need to know they’re wrong - they need to know that Christians care about the lost…but, more importantly, that they care about each other. People matter more than beliefs.
As much as I love the gifts of the Spirit and see them as an integral part of the Christian faith, I am beginning to see that loving others to the point of personal sacrifice is actually way more impressive. Maybe that’s just part of growing up. Or maybe I just missed something along the way. Either way, how we treat others defines us as Christians. In loving others, we love their creator – God.