It seems that the worst enemies that Christians often have are other Christians, or those claiming to be Christians. 500 years ago, as the Protestant Reformation began, we fought wars over whether to stay in the Catholic Church or allow Protestantism to rise. Terrible things were said and done on both sides. While we don’t fight wars over this issue anymore, mostly, it seems like attitudes haven’t changed a whole lot. I remember working with an ecumenical group on an issue and walking up to introduce myself to a couple of men who were engaged in conversation. I stood quietly, waiting for them to finish their conversation and I heard all sorts of things about how terrible my denomination was for not getting involved more often in things like that. All I could do was say, “and that, gentlemen, is why you don’t see us around much in these organizations,” whereupon I introduced myself as a member of the slandered denomination.
When we’re right, as my denomination usually is, it’s easy to look down on other denominations, or other people in general. Ok, my denomination isn’t always right, neither am I, but it’s easy to think that you’re right in just about everything and look down on others, because they’re different in their beliefs. The problem with looking down on others is that it shows that we’re not doing this “follow Jesus” thing correctly. He didn’t look down on those people who were wrong. He showed them love and compassion. Paul mentioned expected Christian behavior to Titus. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2)
Power seems to go to the head of Christians. When we get political or economic power, it seems as though we want to bend everyone to our way of following Jesus by coercion. Coercion has no place in the kingdom of God. People should come to their belief in Christ by the grace of God, not because of fear of the authorities. I look at the results of Christians in power and I worry about why substitute weak, earthly power for the power of God. Paul never foresaw Christians being the powerbrokers of the land, instead, he saw us working in whatever power structure existed and living in such a way that others would see Christ in us. Obviously, his injunction to obey the government comes after the reminder that we are to obey God first, but that being said, we are called to be obedient citizens. It shouldn’t matter to us if the government is friendly to Christians, or unfriendly. Our job is not to be swayed by earthly power, but to proclaim the gospel with the power of God. And Paul’s admonitions to Titus about our behavior is the essence of living in godly power.
Do your beliefs lead you to confrontation with the government, your neighbors, or other Christians. While we cannot accept evil, we can love people who do evil things. When people do evil things in the church, Paul has a plan for dealing with that, and he did so in Corinth. For the most part, though, we, as followers of Christ, are called to live peaceful lives: following and obeying authority, doing good, speaking the truth, and being gentle towards everyone. It’s sad that too often Christians are seen as harsh as unyielding in certain areas. At times we should be showing grace to those who are suffering the effects of sin, we’re known to be the people that remind them how terrible they are. As you go through the day, remember to be peaceable and considerate, always being kind toward everyone.
Lord, remind me of how much grace You’ve extended to me. Let me extend that same grace towards others.