In recent times, our country has had issues with tolerance, or rather- the lack of it. Everyone seems to create a huge fuss every time someone does or says something they don’t agree with. Many times we are caught arguing over issues and condemning people for their decisions, words and actions. We focus on them, their lives, their mistakes, their losses and very soon we find ourselves in a courtroom, where we are the only ones fit to play judge.
I’m not writing to promote an all permissive lifestyle or declaring the guidelines one ought to live by. I write this to promote unity. Unity that comes in diversity, in the beauty of accepting that while holding on to the fundamental truths, our love & relationship with Christ can be expressed in different ways.
The Bible, in Romans 14, lays out this rhetorical situation of a person who may be convinced that he can eat anything on the table while another may believe that he should only be a vegetarian. Both are guests at Christ’s table. Considering that Christ invited them for a meal, this makes them criticizing each other and arguing over what they eat or don’t eat seem ludicrous. The mere thought that someone may be bothered to such an extent, by another’s personal choice and is looked down on, is unfortunate. If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned I’m certain- God can handle that.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:13-15
God calls us to unity rather than uniformity. To be able to look at one another and appreciate their way of loving and serving. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other, we’ve got our hands full just taking care of our own life before God!
Here’s what we really need to be concerned about: that everything we do is for the glory of God and that we don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.
If you eat meat, you ought to eat it to the glory of God and thank God for the bacon. If you’re a vegetarian, you thank God for your broccoli. Luckily, I love both and choose to toss the bacon together with the broccoli and make a ‘Sherry’s special’ broccoli salad, but that’s beside the point. The point is that none of us are permitted to insist on our own way being the sole way. Its God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between.
So where does that leave us when we brutally criticize each other? I’d say it leaves us looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Our critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve our position there one bit.
Besides, what do we gain if we confuse others by creating a huge issue over what they do? In dealing with anyone we ought to remember that Christ died for them just as he did for you.
The beauty lies in seeing what God does with our lives as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Our task is to single-mindedly and whole- heartedly serve Christ. We need to remember that we, too, were saved not by our merit but by God’s grace and we ought to extend the same grace to others.
I wish we could agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. To build each other up, correct each other in love and not tear down by finding fault.
Of course, we need to be sensitive and courteous to the another’s beliefs and at the same time we also need to teach, train, rebuke and correct, but our highest priority is to cultivate our own relationship with God without imposing it on others. Love each other, including those who don’t see things the way you do. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
On a lighter note, if you would like the recipe for my mother’s special bacon & broccoli salad feel free to ask.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” -John 15:12