To Tell the Truth or Not: Part 6 – A Series by Jennifer Miller
I was watching a fight break out the other day and it was eye-opening, as well as, humbling. Both sides were acting immature, fighting tooth and nail, and both sides were missing the point. What they had in common was a self-imposed vision of who they thought they were and who they viewed the enemy to be. However, neither side could see their own flaws, but could only focus on the flaws of the opposition. A dangerous miscalculation!
So what side won? You may be asking this question at this very moment. The answer is staring us right in the face – obviously neither side. Yet, both sides would rather work against one another instead of learning how to work together. I do not know about you, but this deeply saddens me. We live in a society that tries to aim so high to be sophisticated, but never reaches that goal because we fail to get past the elementary stage of our lives. In short, we refuse to let someone else win and we refuse to admit the opposition is making a valid point. Our egos are getting in the way and neither side wants to move aside and welcome another viewpoint.
I am frustrated by this because we are working too hard to be divided and not hard enough to be united. Peace may never come because of our inability to listen to our opposition, think clearly, speak slowly, and apply wisdom generously. Because of our failure to do this, both sides are wrong in their actions and both sides make valid points. In other words, both sides are wrong and both sides are right. As I write this blog a song by the Monkees is playing in my mind called “I’m a Little Bit Wrong and You’re a Little Bit Right” that hits the nail on the proverbial head.
As Christians and as anyone who desires to live in peace with his or her fellow man, we need to outline a few things: First, we are commanded in the great book of God’s Word to put God first. I repeat: first, not last and not off to the side. Our next great commandment is well stated in John 13:34. Jesus instructs us when He states that “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He did not tell us to love only those who share the same beliefs as we do, but to love everyone. No one should be left out!
He further backs this up by repeating this in a more defining way. He zeroes in on who to love in Luke 6:27-28. “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I believe this command fully covers everyone – no excuses!
It was God who taught us love not the other way around. It was Jesus who told us in 1 Corinthians 16:14 that we must “do everything in love.” As this command is often repeated throughout the New Testament, it should underline or stress how strongly God asks us to follow it. However, love is a choice – an action. Your obedience matters and your reluctance to obey (failure to act) this command is a choice as well. In Romans 12:9-11 we learn what love looks like: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” After all we are called to act, to stand out and up for the right cause. It is not just an honor but a blessing to do so as Matthew 5:9 points out. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
Love is the root that makes relationships grow. It makes negotiations possible. It allows both sides to reason an issue out and find the most beneficial and viable solution to the said problem. It is a willingness to compromise and apply a “give and take” mentality to form an agreement. I am not saying to bend God’s Word to fit your argument. His word stands above man-made laws and we must honor His Word. However, I am saying that we need to practice brotherly love as well.
Brotherly love is showing compassion toward one’s fellow man. It is being concerned about your “brother” and helping him in his hour of need. We are not to take advantage of his hardship or misfortune, but rather do what we can to look out for each other. Our goal is to be honest and fair, compassionate to one’s trials, and to treat one another with honor and respect. We are not to find joy in someone’s suffering, boast about our accomplishments, or offer false promises. We should never utter words to hurt or maim, nor words ingenuously spoken to appear to placate someone until we can find a way for us to cunningly profit from another’s hardship. Again, we are told to look out for one another. It is a code of ethics we are to maintain. Again, it all takes root in the command given to us.
Isaiah 56:1 shows us how to help and be there for our “brothers”. “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” Solomon, who was gifted by God with much wisdom, imparts the same message about being just in Proverbs 21:3. “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” We should not feel compelled to do this, but we are to do this because of the love we hold for God and for each other.
Being just is a fine attribute, but we also need to respect one another and treat each other with honor. Looking out for one another is an honor – a privilege – a fulfillment of a command or promise. It demonstrates a high respect for one person to another. How can we honor someone if we fail to respect their point of view or their side of a disagreement? Were we ever listening or were we just using that time to come up with retorts, derisive language, or some sound rebuttal that would put the other side in “its” place?
I, for one, think we tend to build walls around ourselves to protect us from our opposition or serve our own personal needs, instead of making way for us to get together and collaborate as mature adults. We are too quick to cut each other off just when they are beginning to state their point, and instead of “clearing the air” we are blocking each other’s view and widening the rift.
Robert Frost wrote a wonderful poem called Mending Wall. It stresses how fences make good neighbors. We have become too willing to go the distance to build walls to keep others out and to maintain them so we can prevent others from having an opportunity to get to know us. We selfishly seek our own comfort, yet we love to confront the opposition because we are dead set on fighting to preserve the walls we built. We refuse to back down because that would be a sign of weakness and we cannot show that side to anyone. Our pride is the root cause of all of this. It is choking the life out of the unity that we are striving to achieve.
When do we seek to find a way to tear the wall down? We all must live together. Isn’t it more profitable to be able to communicate effectively with one another instead of going for the jugular? Shouldn’t we respect the rights of the individual by hearing them out? I am not saying every cause is right. I am saying that if two sides are willing to hear the issue out, and then together determine what the solution should be, both sides are fighting for the same cause: resolution and unity. To love one another, respect one another, hear the other side and iron out the differences when able. Imagine a reality in which we work together for the common good!
Jesus calls us to put others first as stated in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love is the foundation that we must build upon. When we follow this simple, yet important, command, we can live in peace and both sides can work together for the right reason. It is a choice and it is up to us if we want to work and live together. I want to live in love. I want to be a person of peace. God Bless the peacemakers who serve and follow His commands!