Last week, news broke that Nike was going to be using Colin Kaepernick as the spokesman for the 30th anniversary of their Just Do It campaign. It didn’t take long for Facebook to blow up from people either saying they stood with Kaepernick or those saying they were going to throw away or burn everything Nike that they owned. Talk radio was filled with people calling in saying they were furious over the decision Nike had made. To say that it split the country almost down the middle would be an understatement.
So, as Christians, how are we supposed to react to this? What should be our thoughts on hot button issues like the Nike ad? It’s really amazing to me the progress that can be made when two people sit down and have an open, honest discussion with no preconceived notions of each other. I truly believe that two people sitting down to lunch and talking as friends can accomplish more than all the politicians in the world. A few days ago, I got to do just that. I sat down and had a really great conversation with a friend of mine, and I have to thank him for his willingness to sit down and discuss some things that I know weren’t easy for him to talk about.
Today, we are looking at the part of the Sermon on The Mount where Jesus talks about judging others. Whether we like to admit it or not, this is something many of us do on a daily basis. We may not be outright racists, sexists, or any kind of ist you can come up with, but we still make judgments about people every day. I’m guilty of this, myself. If I’m being honest, I have a tendency to think less of people who drive 18 wheelers, and I get angry at them easier and more frequently than I do other people. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something I struggle with.
Matthew 7:1 – 6 (NIV) says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all of the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
In my discussion with my friend the other day, we talked about how to bridge the gap between people of different races, but I think the same principles work for all people, if applied to our daily lives. There were 5 things that we discussed as being important when trying to fix relations between different types of people, and I’m going to challenge us all to these 5 things as we go about our daily lives. The first one is this.
1. Invite People Who Are Different To The Party
Whether you know it or not, we are all children of God. None are made any less in His image, and none are made any more in it. Society seems to tell us that we can’t attend the same party, but Jesus Himself said that we are to invite everyone. Matthew 28:19 (NIV) says “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus isn’t just telling us to go and make disciples of those who look like us, talk like us, vote like us, or believe the things we do. He said to go to all the nations and make disciples. How we can we hope to share the love of Christ with people if we aren’t willing to invite them to the party? In our conversation, my friend and I discussed how all of us want to be invited, and at the same time, we want others to know that the invitation is extended. You see, we are all different, but in so many ways, we are exactly the same. The only way we can ever understand just how alike we are is to fellowship together. This brings me to my second point.
2. Don’t Just Invite People To The Party. Ask Questions About Their Lives, Feelings, Thoughts, and Beliefs
In our conversation, we discussed how much of the turmoil and division that goes on between people is just a big misunderstanding. No matter what the difference is, each side thinks that the other hates them. I read a book recently called Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach. He is a pastor who grew up with parents who, after divorcing, both ended up in homosexual relationships. He talks in the book about attending gay pride rallies with his mother and her partner, and how there were always people protesting the rallies. When he would ask why they were angry, his mother told him that the people protesting were Christians, and that Christians hated gay people. The unfortunate thing is that, all too often, this is the truth. The problem here is that we as Christians have a failing grade when it comes to loving people who are different from us.
Several years ago, there was a movie called Kingdom of Heaven that came out. It was directed by my favorite director Ridley Scott, and it told the story of a Frenchman named Balian who went to Jerusalem during the Crusades. At a point in the movie, after just arriving in the city, he meets with a friend of his, who asks him how he is doing. He tells his friend he has lost his religion, and I’ve always been intrigued by his friend’s response. He says to him “I put no stock in religion. By the word ‘Religion” I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the ‘Will of God.’ Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What God desires is here (points to head) and here (points to heart) and by what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man. Or not.” Now, despite the fact that this is a fiction movie made by a man who is himself an atheist, I like the dialogue here. He is saying that God is not a religion, or even a denomination. Instead, what God is, and what God wants, is love, both for Himself and for our fellow man. We cannot love people if we are constantly judging them based on our own misunderstandings or misconceptions, which brings me to my third point.
3. Genuinely Listen To What People Have To Say
Honestly, isn’t this a basic rule in life? You have to listen to what people say? If you’re married, in a relationship, a student, or an employee, you know the importance of this all too well. If a husband doesn’t genuinely listen to his wife, or a boyfriend to his girlfriend, there are always misunderstandings, and they usually lead to arguments. If a student doesn’t listen to their teacher, they fail the test, and if an employee doesn’t listen to their boss or coworkers, they will not be successful at their job. If you really want to understand someone, you have to listen to what they have to say.
Imagine if you were to go to a foreign country, and you only spoke part of the language there. You would have to listen very closely to what the people there were saying to you to be sure of what they were saying. If you missed even a single word, it could mean completely misinterpreting what they were trying to ask or tell you, and you would not be able to give them a response. Hearing and understanding what the people around us are saying is crucial to being able to be a friend to and minister to someone. My fourth point is this.
4. Be Okay With Differing Views And Opinions
At another point in the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus talks about loving your enemies. My friend Brandy wrote our message on the subject a few weeks ago. When I worked in hotels, I had many people working around me, as well as guests staying at the hotel, with whom I didn’t always agree on things. The truth is, you’re never going to have everything in common with everyone, and if you surround yourself only with people who agree with everything you agree with, your life is going to be very empty and desolate. Romans 12:16 (NIV) says “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” We should not only be willing to have friends who see things differently than we do, but also have people in our lives who are not on the same socio-economic level as we are.
Over the years, I’ve worked with people from all over the world. When you work in hotels, especially big hotels in the city, you meet and work with people from all over the world. I have had the pleasure of working with Muslims who had barely been in America a full year, and I have also had the pleasure of working with people from Europe who had been here most of their lives. My favorite people to work with were always those who came here from Africa. Not only are their stories fantastic, but they are also very humble and hardworking people, and they appreciate all that you do for them. It fascinated me to hear the stories they had to tell, and the things they had seen in their country. Some of them had come from villages that had seen war and famine in their lifetime, and they had amazing and horrifying stories to tell, but they were always willing to show love to those around them, and it was partially because we actually listened to what they had to say. My final point is this.
5. Love Each Other, No Matter What
This is the second greatest command given to us by Jesus, and it’s second only to loving God above all else, yet this seems to be the hardest thing for people to do. My friend and I had a great discussion over the weekend about how to go about healing the hurt of racism, but we also enjoyed talking about each other’s lives, families, and interests, and it was in those moments that real bonds of friendship are made. Romans 12:21 (NIV) says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The best way to stop the hatred and evil that exists in this world is with love. It seems really simple, yet it is the thing that is most lacking in our world today. We are divided over so many issues, but Jesus called us simply to love. John 15:5 – 8 (NLT) says “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” Apart from God, we cannot love, and we are called to love everyone, which means we must stay close to the Father.
We are so thankful for Your love. I pray today that we would take these challenges, and apply them to our daily lives, Lord. Help us to love one another the way that You love us. It’s in Your name I pray.