If you’re like me, you watch the news at night or go on social media and think to yourself, “the world is just getting worse.” People, it seems, are just out for themselves, are becoming more and more inconsiderate and the things that divide us are becoming easier and easier to do so. And it seems like we’re not only letting this happen, but we keep contributing to the chaos. It’s like nobody knows how to have a conversation anymore.
We all want our views, preferences, beliefs or convictions to be policies that are enforced instead of conversations to be had. And furthermore, it seems like Christians are the worst at this. Sometimes, followers of Jesus are the ones who are the loudest, most obnoxious and least civil people out there. When is this going to stop?
Are things going to get worse before they get better? How can we, as followers of Jesus, actually contribute to making the world a better place and being respectful of people, without totally compromising our beliefs?
Did your parents ever tell you to “mind your manners” as a kid? That was the worst. You obliged, but begrudgingly. Just because you were minding your manners didn’t always mean that you actually wanted to. Deep down, you wanted to run around, be loud, chew with your mouth open and play with your food. It seems like we think of being respectful to other beliefs in the same way nowadays. It’s something that we “have to do,” and not something that we actually want to do. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lays out what he calls “the fruit of the Spirit,” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
In other words, if we are displaying these characteristics in our life, we are becoming people that God intends for us to be and living in a way God has designed us to live. Think of these as minding the manners of the Christian faith, but in a good way that actually makes us want to do so.
One of the main reasons I wrote “Better Together” was to provide people a framework on the importance of community and the God-given need we have to live within it. The “fruits of the Spirit” are kind of like the guidelines of living within community both with fellow believers, but they are also great guidelines for interacting with those different from us. They teach us to “mind our manners” in a way that is Christ-like. I’m afraid many within the Christian community have forgotten how to mind their manners when it comes to interacting with people who believe or live differently, whether within the faith or outside it.
The author of Hebrews urges readers to “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Around the time this was written and in the place where it was, society was still multicultural and diverse like we are today. Perhaps not as globalized, but you could still encounter people that were “different” on a daily basis. Yet, the church flourished with all of these different people coming together. They seemed to manage just fine. Do we have any excuse to expect less than this today?
We must learn to combine having convictions around what it means to follow Jesus while also learning, as followers of Jesus, to be a kinder and gentler people. That’s a huge part of the Gospel message. If the church thrived off of these characteristics when it began, I believe it can continue to thrive in our day and age. In fact, I don’t think the world has ever needed that message more than it does right now.