Don't Forget to Be Nice
Raise your hand if you like being right. Everyone, right? Now keep your hand if you’re willing to sacrifice relationships to prove you’re right. I’d wager not many hands still up. One more: keep your hand up if you’re willing to walk in sin to prove you’re right. Hopefully no hands still up.
Silly, right? If you’re reading this post, chances are you consider yourself among the ranks of good Christian people. I know I do. We are keenly aware of sin, and we strive to be above it. Unfortunately, many of us (myself included) struggle with one of the most central themes of the Gospels: how to love others. I’m sure this isn’t a new thing, it’s just become all the more apparent with the advent of social media. It seems as though any time there’s a new, highly polarizing topic, we Christians are some of the first to take up an offensive posture and strike. It’s one thing for us to be firm in our convictions about sin, as a matter of fact, scripture makes it pretty clear that we should. But we seem to have this bad habit of defending what we think rather than sharing the good news about what we believe.
Many years ago, about 2019 of them actually, an incredible man by the name of Jesus walked the Earth and taught us how to live and how to treat others. Jesus spoke some hefty things about loving and serving people. And not only did he preach these things, more importantly, he lived them. Just take a look at a significant portion of the Sermon on the Mount, any of his miraculous works, or his interactions with those that the world considered less desirable. Jesus not only talked a good talk—he walked a perfect walk. And he called us to do the same.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” - Matthew 16:24
You’ll notice Jesus did not say “If anyone would come after me, let him argue with strangers on the internet about why he’s right.” Or “If anyone would come after me, let him avoid the guy that lives next door because he’s kind of weird.” Or “If anyone would come after me, let him pass by the homeless man on the corner because that guy obviously made some bad choices and needs to learn from his consequences.”
Things look a lot different in 2019 than they did back when Jesus walked the Earth. Our daily lives aren’t really affected by the greed of tax collectors and we don’t have lepers abounding, but the message is no different now than it was then. The lepers that Jesus healed are the homeless man sitting in the Target parking lot. The tax collectors that Jesus reclined and ate with are your friends on Facebook that have different opinions than you. Just as Jesus was placed in the paths of those people in his time, we are placed in our communities and in this time to be Christ to those around us. Without exception.
In Romans 12:9-21 is a wonderful summary of what this Christian walk should look like. Here, Paul shares an awesome outline about how we should live with and love those around us.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
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.”
A lot of times in our modern world, it can be really easy for us forget about the people that live next door to us, or say things on the Internet that we wouldn’t say to someone’s face. It’s become easy for us not to live in harmony, and not to love one another with brotherly affection, and not to associate with the lowly. But these aren’t just some good things that Paul suggested we do, these are essential things. These are the very things Christ called us to when he gave us the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” These are the things that reflect Christ’s love for people, and help to bring people to Him.
So, next time you start to post your opinion online, or wait for your neighbor to go back inside before you check the mail, or pass judgment on the guy collecting spare change on the corner, reflect on the truth of scripture, and the life and love that Christ has called us to, and ask yourself “Does this share the love of Christ?”