Are You My Neighbor?

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a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his or her fellow humans: to be a neighbor to someone in distress.

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It’s Tuesday again, and you know what that means… today is “Truth Be Told Tuesday.” Thanks for checking in.

Earlier in January I had the distinct pleasure to read a New York Times article entitled, Your God and My Dignityby Frank Bruni. The piece was as interesting as it was illuminating.

Bruni’s words were a great reminder on the topic of free will, as well as, a solid review of the stinging repercussions a non-believer can endure from harsh Christian judgment and condemnation.

As a believer of Jesus Christ I agree with much – if not all – of what Mr. Bruni had to say.

In reading the article I was reintroduced to one of my biggest irritations with the “Religious Right” concerning their often judgmental, discriminatory, and at times vituperative behavior. For the record, I despise the term “Religious Right”, there are democrats and liberals who carry deep within their souls strong beliefs in God and an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe we could begin to refer to them as the “Devout Democrats.”

For the record, I’m a conservative Republican that learns closer to the middle, and less to the far fringe right.

As far as the Religious Right is concerned, more than a few of their members could be referred to as the “self-righteous right” – or better yet, the self-righteous.

Bruni, writing from a gay man’s perspective, made two comments that struck me. They left me both saddened and sobered by the reality of our Christian world, and the affects of our relationships with agnostics and atheists alike.

His first comment was: “Christian fundamentalists in this country are practiced at claiming marginalization and oppression.” The other comment poignantly claimed “your faith shouldn’t exempt you from laws you don’t like.” Taking this statement one step further, I don’t think our faith should exempt us from showing God’s love towards others who have a different worldview than we do.

After reading his words, I found it sad that he views Christians as people who claim to be oppressed and marginalized, and not a people that are full of joy and ones that are constantly practicing God’s love and kindness towards others, especially towards those who have different beliefs than us.

In the end, the real question to entertain is what to do with those who have a completely different worldview than you and I, and with people that might not have a belief in God at all?

I believe the answer is simple: We must love them.

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This is my neighbor…

Too often many who claim to have a belief in God or entertain a personal relationship with Jesus Christ use said position, foundation, or platform to judge, and to be hateful towards other individuals they deem as “sinners.” This is wrong.

News flash to everyone: we’re all in the same boat – we’re all sinners.

People who differ from us morally, and have divergent worldviews, shouldn’t garner our “self righteous” condemnation. They should receive our love.

In the case of Mr. Bruni, I wonder if he has seen God’s full-blown love and mercy directed at him like he has the condemnation and judgment from those who profess to be Christian and God-fearing?

And what about other people whom live their life in the manner they choose – and like Frank Bruni, a manner that doesn’t match up with the belief system of another group of individuals? How are they to be treated?

Let’s take a closer look at the issue of homosexuality, and the treatment of those individuals whom engage in this lifestyle for example.

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Harvey Milk is my neighbor….

Let’s “say” homosexuality is a sin, as the Bible does, and with this knowledge the self-righteous right discover it’s their moral imperative to poke their fingers in the chest of the sinner, reminding them of what they view as deplorable behavior, and the eventual resting place of their soul. Before I go any further, who put these people in charge of so harshly communicating the destiny of another’s soul anyway? Where is the list that names these people as the judge and jury on all things pertaining to righteousness, Christianity, and God? Anyway, don’t these same self-righteous believers know that sin in God’s eyes is far reaching and encompasses things like lying, gossiping, starting rumors, committing adultery, and cheating? I guess if I were to tweet that question I would end it with #GlassHouse.

Is it not also a sin not to honor your father and mother?

Sin is a tricky thing to accuse someone else of. It’s like putting on too much perfume or cologne: I know your intention was to smell good, but all was in vain because you ended up stinking.

Stinking a lot.

And because “sin” has been one of my nearest companions – if not my closest one – since I can remember, I think it’s wise to point my self-righteous fingers, and thumb, at myself, and allow others to take up their sin with God, and allow Him to convict their heart on the topic of what is wrong and what is right.

I don’t believe it is within my power – nor do I feel comfortable – to tell another person they’re going to hell.

Call me crazy.

It’s not within my moral range or zip code to behave contemptuously toward others that have an different worldview than I. How is the “Good News” – the gospel of Jesus Christ – to be attractive to non-believers if I show disdain, contempt, and hatred towards them and the way they live?

My mom has always said, ”You attract more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.”

She’s right.

slide_336390_3396726_free Bayard Rustin is my neighbor…

People with contrasting views, and those who choose to live their lives differently than others need not be ostracized or tolerated either. Traffic jams, crowed elevators, and public cell phone conversations are to be tolerated, not people.

People are to be loved.

That doesn’t mean a person should necessarily change what they think for the sake of making others happy. It just means at some point we have to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. We need to look at each other as God’s creation, not enemies because we think differently.

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He is my neighbor…

Like I said earlier, sin is a tricky thing to accuse someone else of.

The best definition of sin I’ve heard came from the mother of John Wesley. John Wesley was an Anglican divine and theologian who, with his brother Charles Wesley and fellow cleric George Whitefield, is credited with the foundation of the evangelical movement known as Methodism. John Wesley was one of nineteen children and his mother, Susanna Wesley, was one of twenty-nine children – I cannot tell you how happy I am to report that someone else has more children than I – and when the young Wesley ask his mother what the definition of sin was she espoused this view and said these words:

“Son, if anything weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things; in short, if anything increases the authority and power of the flesh over the Spirit, then that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself.”

I can’t do any better than that. Mama Wesley does a great job of reminding me that we ALL are sinners.

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She is my neighbor…

Finally, for living together in harmony, Moses gave 613 laws to help build their community. About 500 years later, David, in the fifteenth psalm, reduced them to eleven. Isaiah, in his opening chapter, reduced them further to six. Micah, in his sixth chapter, narrowed them down to three: “To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly before your God.”

God later reduced them to two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12: 30-31

Plain and simple: Love your neighbor. Don’t only love him/her if you like him. Don’t love him/her if you agree with them. Don’t love your neighbor only if they look and smell good. Don’t love your neighbor if it is easy.

Just simply love your neighbor. Second news flash: everyone is your neighbor.

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He is my neighbor…

The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus reminded us thousands of years ago that “men are not disturbed by things, but by the view which they take of them.”

Many of us are disturbed because we view individuals with dissimilar beliefs and worldviews with hatred, contempt, and with a self-righteous mentality that is firmly rooted in intolerance, ignorance, and religious arrogance.

I do believe there will come a time that God will have the final say in all matters that have to do with morality. He will share with us His verdict on abortion, homosexuality, gun control, and reality TV. The final State of the Union address God gives in the last days will clear up every matter that separates us as families, communities, and countries. He will also clear up one matter that has to do with me: “Shawn, did you love your neighbor?”

I want to be able to say yes. I hope I can say yes.

In the end, we all should change our view from condemnation and judgment to consideration and compassion for those who carry with them differing views and lifestyles because each and everyone of them are our neighbors.

Love your neighbor and let’s move on.

That is my “Truth Be Told” for January 20, 2015 (tbtt . #65)

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Neighbor . Band of Horses

 

 

 

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