Like many of you, I’ve been delighted to see liberal Christian organizations springing up and being active on the Internet and on Facebook. It reminds me of my youth–the Jesus Movement, 1960′s and 1970′s Christian rock music, and the magazine The Wittenburg Door. It reminds me of when Christians were socially active, when they wanted to live as Jesus lived, when they wanted to make the world a better place, and when they were inclusionary.
I know these Christians have always existed, I’m one, but, like me, many have been underground for decades because the loudest Christian voices in recent years have become exclusionary and sometimes ugly, and some of us liberal Christians got tired of being beaten up, called wimps, or ignored. So, now that liberal Christians are speaking up loud and clear again and challenging their more conservative brethren, I should be happy, right? But, I’m not completely happy because many (not all) liberal Christians have begun acting like many (not all) conservative Christians. They are becoming strident and judgmental. They call each other names or infer the displeasure of Jesus. Their cute slogans that you can post on Facebook share a truth, yes, but with a barb in it. That is not the Jesus way of respect.
How many of us when we are told we are wrong or when we are shamed, say, “Oh, thank you, I hadn’t realized. I shall change immediately”? I’d venture to say none of us. Our egos do not like to admit we are wrong. Instead, when challenged, our hackles rise, and we dig deeper into our philosophical trenches.
What disturbs me is that instead of bridging our differences, we humans are deepening the chasms. This troubles me, and I think it might also trouble Jesus. As Christians, we must lead the way on respecting one another because that what Jesus did–he respected people, especially those different from him. Despite my advancing age (61), I am still naive enough to believe that if the Jews and the Palestinians respected one another’s humanity, they could solve their discord. The same with Iran and the USA, the same with gangs, the same with family dynamics. It all comes down to mutual respect.
We hear a lot about loving our fellow human being, and to that end, we give food aid or put up shelters, and all that is good. But, it is when we respect our fellow human being that real change results. When we see others as being just like us, that’s when we make changes because what is good for us is good for others, what is bad for us is bad for others. Simple, really, but oh how we humans complicate it.
Jesus gave us a simple illustration of respect. We can argue well past when the cows come home, but no one can prove definitively what Jesus thought about drinking wine. What we do know is that Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding. He didn’t judge; rather, he joined in the celebration. Maybe that’s what we should do with those different from us–join in their celebrations without judging, and we can only celebrate with others when we respect them.
Last night, my son Gavin and his girlfriend Michelle brought her parents to our home so that we could meet and share a meal together. Gavin spent the day smoking tri-tip and chickens, and we all cleaned and prepared side dishes and dessert. We were excited and nervous, which is often the case when you are meeting new people.
When Michelle and her parents arrived, we introduced ourselves and started getting acquainted. Michelle’s mother gave me a bottle of wine. I was very touched because I knew that Michelle’s parents do not drink. I thanked her for her kind gift. The kids and I had decided ahead of time that we would forgo our wine with dinner out of respect for Michelle’s parents, so we all had water, tea, or lemonade.
As the evening progressed, we got onto the subject of raising children. Michelle’s father and I have very different views on this subject. Michelle is an American born Chinese, and her parents are from China, so her father was telling me how Chinese parents raise their children. I shared with him how I raised my children, which differed in many ways from his way. What I found interesting is how much we learned from each other because we respected each other. Neither of us was going to change the other one’s mind, but we both had to agree that despite our respective differences, all of our children had turned out well, so we both had done something right. My theory about this, and it’s only my theory, is that if children know they are truly loved and cherished by their parents, then the children will turn out well, no matter what the cultural differences of parenting.
When I awoke this morning, I was thinking about the lovely evening we had had with Michelle’s parents, and I was thinking how respect for one another was the secret. Michelle’s parents love her, and I love Gavin. Gavin and Michelle love each other, so our love for our children encourages us to set aside whatever differences we may have about drinking wine or raising children and embrace our similarities, which are that we are parents who love our children and who respect and celebrate our children’s choices. Neither of us told the other he or she was wrong about something. Neither of us called the other a derogatory name. No subtle barbs camouflaged in a platitude were exchanged. We two families had a lovely evening sharing with one another, and, as a result, we both learned from one another. This is what I think Jesus wants us to do.
So, let’s try the Jesus way of respect. From now on, instead of deepening the chasms of our differences, let’s build bridges over our differences and find ways to celebrate our shared humanity.