I’m taking a class in school right now called “Common Faith and the Christian Good.” Because it’s required the class is made up of a hodgepodge of students with a variety of different backgrounds and beliefs. That variety actually makes class really fun (*nerd alert*), since we get to hear from a variety of traditions, beliefs, non-beliefs, etc.
We were doing a section about loving your neighbor and used the parable of the Good Samaritan as reference. It wasn’t a new story for me and the idea of loving my enemy wasn’t hard. “Ha!,” I thought, “I’ve totally got this. I’m such an awesome and loving person. Everyone knows that about me. Look at all my friends with different beliefs…” #FacePalm
Okay, I’m exaggerating… a little, but I definitely had my head up my ass for that internal pat on the back.
Just a few days later there was a blog posted on Facebook by one of my cousins about the whole Indiana debate. The blog was definitely opposite to my viewpoint, but I try to always read both sides of an issue, so I read it.
Then I read the comments.
NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.
NEVER EVER READ THE COMMENTS.
I know better! But, I read them anyway, and unsurprisingly my blood began to boil. Some of the things that were said were awful, hateful, and remarkably ignorant. How dare they speak about other people that way. One comment (for example) was even talking about how the Gay Mafia was trying to kill God… WHAT THE WHAT?! And they got worse and worse. I was so angry I was shaking. I started to try to comment on the blog itself. I tried multiple times and the website kept acting up. Now, I realize, this was a really great thing as I would have said something I regretted. I called Daniel at least 3 times to vent about it. After our third phone call he asked me why, specifically, I was so angry and offended.
In that moment, I had a huge epiphany. The people that I have the hardest time loving (and probably spend the most time judging) are Christians, like me, but who’s opinions differ from mine.
Why is this? Don’t we all want the same thing? Don’t we believe, fundamentally, the same things? Part of my anger and judgement, I’ve realized, comes from past hurts. I’ve personally experienced emotional abuse from members of the church. Those particular people were extremely conservative Christians. Even though I’ve since forgiven them individually, I realized I’ve been carrying that fear, baggage, and judgement and placing it on other ‘conservative Christians,’ specifically those whose beliefs are similar to the people who had been abusive to me. While, I thought I had forgiven them, I realized, I was unknowingly carrying all this anger elsewhere – instead of letting it go.
In addition to that, a large issue I see, is that discrimination is still very prevalent with some inside the walls of the church. I believe that most people don’t even realize it, much the same way I didn’t see it in myself. The church is made up of people. Flawed people. People that are trying to learn and figure things out. Even though I know that, when I see discrimination within the church, I become personally offended. I become offended that Jesus is being misrepresented and the message of love in the Gospel is corrupted. And in my offense, I become just as discriminatory. My fear and misunderstanding is taking over, just as theirs is. Instead of having a conversation, the anger make the situation worse.
We only know what we know. We are all trying to do our best in the world with the information and the beliefs we have. Love is how Jesus responded to the people that abused him. Love is how Jesus responded to the outcasts. Love is the only response that is adequate to overcome fear, anger, hate, desperation and lack of understanding.
I’m learning to respond in love. I’m learning to recognize my own judgment and discrimination of people. It’s a process, I’m a work in process. And the more we learn to have this conversation together the better we all will be.
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