“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).
If this article sounds familiar to some of you, it is because I wrote a similar one not too long ago, but the topic is so perplexing to me that I wanted to address it again. Millions of people worldwide will reflect on the past year, remembering both the happy and sad events of 2021. They will probably make the obligatory New Year’s resolutions and excitedly wait for the “dropping of the ball” to enthusiastically wish each other a happy and prosperous 2022. Amongst all the excitement and anticipation, most of us will wonder if we will finally rid ourselves of the curse of COVID and return to whatever we consider normality.
I do not have a New Year’s resolution as much as a wish this year – a wish that is accompanied by a sincere prayer. Many years ago, I invited a close friend to church, and his response was puzzling to me at the time. He emphatically stated that he would never attend church because “You guys cannot even get along. I do not want to be around so much hate.” This year I have come to understand what he meant by that, even if his logic was flawed a little. You see, most Christians are peaceable, loving each other with grace and kindness and concentrating on making themselves more acceptable in His sight. But far too many spend their time denigrating other believers, and I want to address that problem today with my New Year’s wish.
My wish is that we will have patience with one another and treat each other with love and gentleness. Social media has been a great source of education and entertainment to the world, but it has also been a vehicle of anger and even hate for some individuals. I am on many different platforms, social media, and blogging sites. On most of them, there are individuals who act with such fierce anger at another person’s differing opinion that it is hard to see Christianity in any of it. I am not sure if they understand their effect on people who come across threads like that, where bickering becomes arguments, and arguments become disparaging words filled with hatred.
What newcomers see is violent ideology and hate-filled speech, not loving Christ-followers having a purposeful, respectful debate. Baptists hating Catholics, Catholics hating Pentecostals, Pentecostals hating the Church of Christ, the Church of Christ hating Presbyterians, Presbyterians hating some other tradition, etc. Where is the love you are commanded to have for one another? Are you so focused on fighting someone to your point of view that you don’t read and obey scriptures like Mark 12:31, “You shall love your brother as yourself?” Have your belief and stand firm on it, but for the sake of unity, especially for those who are searching, have a modicum of respect for each other. Have a lively, passionate debate, but don’t allow that to turn into hatred because the other person is “too stupid to see your point of view.” And please, stop saying “all of you” when you don’t know every person in that group.
I experimented not too long ago to see if there was any return to respect after allowing fierce and frankly disrespectful arguing to occur, and I found almost no chance of that. Once the ship of love and respect sails, apparently, it loses its way in the storms of anger and hatred. Have enough love for each other that you do not allow your passions to dictate your attitude and realize that your words are not an encouragement to most people reading them. If you find yourself in a disrespectful “fight,” exit it. It will not do you, the other person, or anyone else any good whatsoever. People who are searching will not be encouraged to attend church if there is no love shown to each other by those who claim to follow Christ.