This post has two titles.

I started to lay out what I think is a very important framework for a conversation, yesterday, in a post.  Although a few people got distracted by the cute picture of the kids and how it displayed on Facebook, my hope is that most people read the whole piece.  Either way, you can go back and look at it if you missed it, as it is a prerequisite for today’s post.

Here are the two titles for today’s post and you get to choose which title to apply, based on your own personal convictions:

The Necessity for Mutual Respect

or…

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

I chose the titles because each lends itself to a particular reader.  I won’t bore you with details, but one title is for Christians and the other is for those who are not Christians.  I know that those are really broad parameters, but for the purposes of what I’m trying to illustrate, I think they are adequate.

Yesterday, I wanted to lay a foundation of the fact that we are all human beings and that as such, we have equal value.  I wanted to cut through the whole “us” versus “them” paradigm which seems to permeate all of the coverage of each and every event that we are currently being fed by all forms of media.  If we are ever going to find healthy solutions for our problems, any of them, then we are going to have to approach them from a “we” perspective.

The simple truth is that we can have no progress unless we all respect each other in the process of finding solutions.  I know that issues quickly become quite complicated, but we have to start from a position of mutual respect for others as human beings.  This is a truth so simple that it is evident in almost all of children’s media ever produced.  We have to respect each other, despite our differences, if we are ever to get along.  Beyond that, we must seek to find common grounds from which to build relationships that will lead to solutions.

I chose the Christian/Non-Christian distinction to start with because that seems to be one that is currently in play in most of the discussion that I have seen.  Also, it is one with which I have had the most interaction.

I can only speak briefly to those in the Non-Christian camp in regard to many of the current conflicts.  To those folks, I would merely like to point out that we must have mutual respect for each other in order to find solutions.  Whatever your religious, political, ethical, or moral underpinnings, you have to be willing to engage in civilized, respectful communication and trustworthy negotiation in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.  As we may or may not share much in the way of moral, ethical, or intellectual convictions, I am left with appealing to any sense that you may have of justice, fairness, or love.

As for Christians, I could go all day on this but I will keep it simple, we are required to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Actually, we are even commanded to love our enemies.  Boy, that’s a tricky one, huh?  We like to discuss the story of the good Samaritan, but we often stop short of realizing its full implications.  Jesus was telling this story to a primarily Jewish audience.  An audience which hated Samaritans.  In fact, I think that it is important to note how often Jesus interacts with Samaritans, both as illustrations and as people.  Samaritans were the ultimate “those people” to the Jews of his Jesus’ day.

Take a minute.  Think about a people group that you dislike…maybe even one that you hate.  That is your Samaritan.  Here’s the hard thing to hear:  Jesus loves those people, too.  Now, here’s the hardest thing to hear:  Jesus expects you to love those people, as well.

Ouch.  That really stings, doesn’t it.  That’s one heck of an expectation.  It creates a lot of uncomfortable situations.  I makes us have to love people who have a lot of qualities that we really don’t like.

I’ve got to be honest.  When I take a minute to make a list of people that I can’t stand, that list comes really easy.  Liars, thieves, adulterers, hipsters (we have a lot of those in Asheville), guys who wear wear pastel Polo shirts with khaki shorts and boat shoes with no socks, most white people with dreadlocks, people with a sense of entitlement, and on the list goes…

I have to work every day to try and love the people on my list.  Some days, I do pretty well.  Some days, I don’t do well at all.  The problem is (and this is the reason for this whole series of posts) that the internet and how our society works gives us a perfect venue to make complete jackasses out ourselves in about thirty seconds with a comment on a post or a couple of words on the street.  The crazy thing is how often we do it and still feel good about ourselves.

I know that we’ve got some serious issues that are at stake, but if we are descending into a state of becoming raging jerks, then we have lost the ability to bring anything positive to the situation.  This isn’t just about keeping one’s composure while secretly hating someone in the back of your mind, this is about seeking to find a way to lovingly relate to another human being with whom you potentially totally disagree.

I know this is a lot to ask and that this post is being harder on Christians that on those who are not, but we are commanded to go that extra mile.  If we are blasting people on the internet or in any public forum, then we are falling woefully short in following that command.

Next time, we start digging into the hard stuff.  I promise to be an equal-opportunity offender before I get done with all of this.

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