Every Thursday evening, we’ve been feeding groups of college students spaghetti, homemade sauce, and homemade Italian bread. It’s been a fun way to get to know them a little bit better, and good for them to not have to eat cafeteria food. At a recent gathering, one of them noticed a book I had out, The Story, by Randy Frazee and Max Lucado. He said “hey, Randy Frazee used to be the pastor at my church”.
It was a strange thought. Typically, to me, I see a published book and the author is very far removed from my daily life. It is almost as if the person isn’t even real; it’s a name on a page. That has been changing for me, because I now have met and become friends with a novelist and communicated with authors on Facebook and Twitter and through e-mail. I even got to have lunch with someone who is kind of a big deal (ok, so there were about 20 people there, not just me, but still!) and then have a conversation with him later in the evening. In a couple of weeks, I’ll have another chance to meet some other fairly well-known people.
They are not just names on a book cover.
They are real people.
They are real people with hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities.
They are real people that God loves every bit as much as he loves anyone else.
We forget that. We think of them as someone who is open for us to critique, criticize, and even attack. We let our personal feelings about the person or the topic (either positive or negative, actually) influence our response and yet we don’t think about that person’s personal feelings. We hold them up to impossible standards of perfection that we don’t hold ourselves up to. Does every author get everything 100% correct? No. But we don’t have to agree with everything a person says to learn something from it. And yes, this is hard. There are people that I do not want to bother trying to learn from, but I had that attitude of mine checked the other day when I saw someone re-tweet something with which I wholeheartedly agreed–yet it was from someone towards whom I typically harbor a bad, smug, eye-rolling attitude.
What are we doing?
When we tear someone down, are we treating them as fellow humans created in the image of God?
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes:
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. –Ephesians 4:29
Granted, there are times when evil needs to be addressed and perpetrators of it need to be confronted. But too often, our reactions may be more explosive than is necessary, and bring condemnation rather than grace.
The next time I think negatively towards something I read or hear, I want to try to remember these things:
- this is a real person
- this person is not perfect
- this person is also made in the image of God
- this person is loved by God
- this person expresses his/her faith differently than I do
- this person has a different relationship with God than I do
- this person is my brother or sister in Christ
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. –1 John 4:18-21
What do you do when you come across a message contrary to your message or your belief? How do you look at that person? How do you treat that person?