I just came back from an eye opening mission trip. We didn’t go far, but the trip got me thinking about how I see the people in the world and in my community.
I am wondering if we see too many as the “enemy.” We have enemies of America. We have enemies of the cross. We have enemies in our communities. I really think that we need to reevaluate thinking of others as our enemies. Why? Because when we do, people become enemies instead of people.
When we treat those who believe differently than us as enemies, we create two roadblocks to reaching them. First, we create fear. Enemies want to curse us. Enemies want to hurt us. Enemies deserve fear. People might hurt us. However, when we see others as people there is just as much the possibility that they will welcome us. People may make mistakes, but they also can show great kindness. The second roadblock is we see things instead of people. Things can be mocked and mistreated without guilt. Things can be ignored without consequences. People can’t be mistreated or ignored. People tug our heartstrings. We want to reach and touch people.
So, how do we treat those who believe differently that we do? How do we see them as people rather than our enemies? How can we reach them for Jesus? I have a few thoughts:
- Never assume that the ideas of a vocal leader are fully shared by their followers. I am a preacher. Those in my congregation do not walk lock-step with me. They are learning and growing just as I am. One on one, we all are that way.
- Never assume that what a person believes today will never change or fluctuate. Very few people never change what they think. Sure, there may be some foundational things that would require a transformation of thinking to change. We are all like that. However, there are many things that shift in us based upon who is talking to us and the argument they make. Those things change in us. They will change in others too.
- Stop pretending that sin, incorrect beliefs, or inconsistencies don’t plague you just like the person you disagree with. It is easy to think that “enemies” are worse than us. We all make mistakes. We all are inconsistent at times. Forgiveness and kindness are better answers than bitterness or judgment. We all need forgiveness. We all need kindness. Those we disagree with need them too.
- Acknowledge that everyone is capable of acting on feelings of love, devotion, fear, or hate. In other words, both the person I disagree with and I have the same emotions. I suppose if we could honestly say that our emotions never get the best of us, then we could come down hard when someone acts out of anger or fear. That’s not reality, is it? So, when someone says words that they later regret, do we give them the ability to make it right? Do we leave the door open for change, remorse, and repentance?
- Make ministering about loving on people in the name of Jesus and not about getting your way or winning a spiritual argument. When it feels like someone just wants to win spiritual or emotional points, our defenses go up. When love is genuine, barriers come down. We listen to each other. We learn. We grow.
Too many times we read Jesus’ words to be wise as serpents, and we forget the part about being harmless as doves. We read that people are, “enemies of the cross of Christ,” but forget that the same apostle said that we, “wrestle not against flesh and blood.” It is time for everyone to see in God’s people a lived out love that has no enemy but evil. People are loved. People are helped. People are always treated as people. When we do, we will reach out to those around us. When we do, others will see Jesus in us.
Something to think about,