Courage enables a person to say what is on his mind. This is wonderful for someone who has deep respect for other people. He realizes that each person is created in the image of the Creator and therefore he has a basic respect for every person he encounters.
This is wonderful for someone who consistently sees the good in others, and even though he is aware of faults and limitations, he focuses on the good and the potential good. This is wonderful for someone who is on a high level of love for other people and therefore would never want to needlessly cause anyone pain.
For courage to be valuable, the owner of that attribute needs to be sensitive to the feelings of others. While he has the assertiveness to say whatever he feels like saying, he would not feel like saying something that is needlessly painful. He will be careful how he says whatever he says. He pays attention to the outcome of his messages. Since there are always a multitude of ways to word any message, he will choose the most sensitive approach.
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Courage for Good”
Daily Lift #810
I can see people calling others names on the blogosphere again. Actually, it’s just two bloggers who’ve done this recently and I won’t draw any further attention to them by mentioning their names or the URLs to their blogs.
This is another thing that bugs me about “religious people” (and I’ve mentioned these sorts of problems a time or two before). In the name of being right or telling the truth or whatever we think we’re doing, we behave as if anyone we disagree with is bad or wrong or even evil.
I suppose it’s one thing to have someone criticize us and then to respond with anger. That’s still wrong but it’s understandable and all too human. It’s another thing entirely though, to seek out someone else, compare your position to their’s on some matter, and then go out of your way to write a blog post telling the world how bad that person is in your eyes, specifically calling them denigrating names, and then defending your poor behavior when someone calls you on it.
Although the next example isn’t quite what I’m talking about, in researching an article I recently read that was authored by John F. MacArthur, I read the following on his Wikipedia page:
His writings are critical of other modern Christian movements and ministers such as those who run “seeker-friendly” church services such as Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren.
He has criticized popular mega-church pastor Joel Osteen, whom he has spoken of as a quasi-pantheist and proclaimed his teachings to be Satanic…
MacArthur has referred to Catholicism in previous speeches as the “Kingdom of Satan” and holds to the confession that the pope is the antichrist.
We live in a nation where we have free speech rights and so MacArthur has a right to his opinions and to express them in public. No question about that. I’m also not a fan of the whole “megachurch” model and think it’s a bad idea that doesn’t serve the needs of its members as much as it does the needs of its leaders. It’s OK to be critical of this style of offering the Gospel, but calling someone “Satanic” or referring to the Pope as “the antichrist” is not only non-productive, but inflammatory. I suppose you could spin the Bible to justify public name-calling, but there are plenty of scriptures that talk about loving other believers and even praying for your enemies.
Using the above-examples, it might be more “Christian” for MacArthur to pray for those he disagrees with than to call them names.
But I don’t really want to pick on MacArthur much (though Wednesday’s and Thursday’s “morning meditations” will focus my comments on material he’s written), since I’m supposed to be talking about better ways of addressing situations where we disagree with each other in the world of faith. Name calling isn’t on the board nor should it ever be.
There are principles in Judaism that advise we judge people favorably (something I’ve written about before) and see the merit in everyone (see Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s article, Make Others Meritorious). That’s not easy to do. Our entire world is constructed around crushing your enemy and seeing the worst in everyone. From the news media, to politicians, to dealing with your next door neighbor and his noisy dog, we’ve been taught that we must come out on top, we must be a winner therefore others must be losers, and we can only be good when other people who are different are bad.
Is that what the Bible says?
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
–1 Corinthians 13:1-13
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.
If you value the Word of God at all, you can’t ignore these teachings. But how do you put them into practice? None of us are spiritual Pollyanna‘s, as much as I suppose we should be. We all have our darker sides, our “sin natures” that stand in-between us and a life of righteousness and holiness.
I’ll put myself on the hot seat. I haven’t publicly offered my criticisms of the chapter MacArthur wrote yet, but I do need to reframe and rethink what I say and think about him. If I disagree with his position on a number of matters (not that he’ll ever know about it or even know that I exist), what should I do? It’s appropriate to write book reviews or “chapter” reviews as long as the disagreement isn’t personalized and I don’t call MacArthur bad names.
I don’t think he’s satanic and he’s probably a nice person. If I met him, I would probably like him. I can see that he values honesty, he certainly values the Word of God, which I admire greatly, and he’s serious about studying the Bible and encouraging others to do so as well. These are all very fine qualities.
What about the parts I don’t agree with? Beyond writing critiques and exercising my free speech rights, I need to pray, not only for him but for me. I’m not a perfect person and I don’t have all the brains in the world, so it’s possible for me to misunderstand something. I must turn to God, who possesses all knowledge and all compassion and ask Him to help me and to help all of us break out of our little boxes and to consider how God thinks about us and how He sees us.
I’m sure if we could see ourselves as God sees us, even for a second or two, it would be a tremendously humbling experience.
Maybe that’s how we do it. Maybe we learn to see the best in others by realizing God’s grace means He’s seeing the best in us. More than that, He’s seeing the best in the human life of Messiah as the best in us, though we hardly deserve it.
In religious Judaism, you sometimes hear that Jews are granted a favor in the merit of the Patriarchs or some similar statement. In Christianity, we tend not to think in those terms. We think instead of Jesus and what he’s done for us. But we also have a place in the world to come in the merit of our Master, the Messiah, Yeshua. It’s the same concept looked at from a slightly different point of view. To see it though, we had to get outside our box for a moment.
Before I’m critical of someone else again, I’ll try to remember that they look differently to God than they do to me, and therefore, I need to see the merit in them and to judge them favorably…even when I disagree with them.
“Never argue with stupid people, they drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”