Treating Each Other Better

Ultimately, how we treat others speaks loudly about our love for Christ.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

In ethics class, we are taught that ethics is simply a matter of determining right from wrong. The trick lies in how we decide what is right or wrong. As a Christian, my belief system is clear. What’s right and wrong and how I am to treat others is spelled out for me in black and white. There is no real way to confuse “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NIV).

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Demeaning someone because of their race or ethnicity or whatever is flat out wrong. Racism is a sinful scourge tarnishing our history as a people. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that ALL life is created by God and  EVERY human life has value in the eyes of the Lord. One race was not created superior over another. Red, yellow, black, or white—we’re all equal in God’s eyes. In Scripture, the Apostle Paul reminds us, we all fall short of the glory of God. None of us, apart from Christ, are perfect. Yet, God loves us, even in our broken and fallen state. The Lord delights in us, especially when we delight in Him.

Genesis 1:27-28 The Message (MSG)

26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
        reflecting our nature
    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
        the birds in the air, the cattle,
    And, yes, Earth itself,
        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
    God created human beings;
        he created them godlike,
    Reflecting God’s nature.
        He created them male and female.
    God blessed them:
        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
        for every living thing that moveon the face of Earth.”

We long ago denounced the wickedness of slavery and decades ago defeated the evil ideology of Nazism. They have no place in our society. Yet, they continue to exist. Each time they raise their ugly heads, we must denounce them.  

We must treat each other better. 

Treating each other better is rooted in being humble and kind. Hatred and racism cannot exist in the presence of a humble and kind heart. Humility and kindness help us recognize we aren’t superior to one another. Humility and kindness lead us to treat each other better. 

“Humble And Kind”
(written by Lori McKenna)

You know there’s a light that glows by the front door
Don’t forget the key’s under the mat
When childhood stars shine,
Always stay humble and kindGo to church ’cause your mamma says to
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won’t be wasted time
Always stay humble and kindHold the door, say “please”, say “thank you”
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb
But always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride
But always stay humble and kindDon’t expect a free ride from no one
Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why:
Bitterness keeps you from flyin’
Always stay humble and kindKnow the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love
“I love you” ain’t no pick-up line
So always stay humble and kindHold the door, say “please”, say “thank you”
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb
But always stay humble and kind
When those dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride
But always stay humble and kindWhen it’s hot, eat a root beer popsicle
Shut off the AC and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kindDon’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

Today, people all around the globe are ensnared in human trafficking and forced labor. In the U.S. and other developed countries, human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, impacts an estimated one-third to one-half of all homeless youth under the age of 18.  If you watch porn or support the porn industry, you support human slavery. Did you know that? Porn is something that exists in the shadows and that is practiced in the darkness. Most of us don’t watch porn at work or at church or at the family dinner table. Yet, we all know it’s there. Porn hides in our midst. Just like racism. 

Yes, we’ve made a ton of progress since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed emancipation and Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream. Even in their time, the Founding Fathers recognized that ALL people were created equal. Mired in an economy dependent on slave labor, they recognized they still had a long way to go to make that a reality. Truth is, while much progress has been made, there is still much more to do. We’re not there yet. 

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Today, many people are frustrated by a system that seems too slow to change. Some see it as a time  to dish out old lies of the past, somehow trying to convince sane and reasonable people that one person’s skin tone is better than another. The events of Charlottesville this past weekend call us to do better. We must.

We need to start treating each other better. No one has a monopoly on love and respect.

Tim McGraw “Humble and Kind”

As a Christian and a Christ-imitator, I cannot denounce the hatred wrought by racism loudly enough. Jesus loved me while I was yet a sinner. God granted me grace and mercy when I did not deserve it. For me to think that somehow the color of my skin raises me above someone else is vile and foolhardy.  Brothers and sisters, we cannot continue to treat each other this way.  We cannot continue to make it a black thing or a white thing or a brown thing. Taking pride in our ethnicity and our culture is one thing; allowing our arrogance to divide us is another.  God loves you, just like God loves me. He loves you if you’re white. He loves you if you’re brown. He loves you if you’re black. More importantly, God forgives us, regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin. When we believe in Jesus Christ for our salvation and ask God for His forgiveness, He does so joyfully, delighting in us, just as we are. It is really that simple.

Without forgiveness, we will find it difficult to move forward. The time has come to let our love for Christ speak clearly through how we treat one another. I am only one person unable to change the world alone. But, I can change that small portion of the world I’m in.  So can you; I believe you will. Godspeed. Go in peace. Love one another as Christ first loved you.

Prayer:

Father, we love you and shout your praises! Let us walk more humbly today, and love others like Christ loved us. Father, through your Son, Jesus, we know what love is and we know what forgiveness is. We can do better, but we need you to help us supernaturally overcome the evils of racism and slavery that besiege us. Forgive us for our sins and shortcomings. Help us reflect the love that you have shown us through your Son,  Jesus Christ and by your Spirit. Lift us up from the depths of darkness into the light. Help us see what we do not see, help us know what we do not know. Help us be kinder to one another and treat each other with a respect that can only come from knowing you and your Word. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com. Edited with Pixlr.

More Gratitude, More Kindness

The world could stand some more kindness. Our world would benefit from more gratitude.

Gratitude and kindness have preoccupied my mind the past few days. In the past week, God has shown me many things to be grateful for and revealed to me numerous acts of kindness. Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with several hundred homeless men sheltering in Downtown Dallas at Union Gospel Mission. It was a great night filled with high energy and tons of emotion. Afterwards, I had the privilege of praying with dozens of men, some ready to receive Jesus as their Savior, others in need of healing and restoration through the power of prayer. Believers are not immune from the travesties of life. Being a Christian isn’t a cure-all from the ill-effects of living in a lost and fallen world. Yet, there’s lots to be grateful for.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

When I got home, a little after 9 pm, I shared the events with my lovely Sweet T. We were both energized by how the Spirit of God was moving in the lives of the men down at UGMD and how we were seeing God at work in our own lives. Around 10 pm, Sweet T went to bed, while I continued to unwind from all the excitement. Seeing God at work feels good. It is good to see the Lord working in the lives of those whom He loves. I was really stoked.

Then the phone rang.

Life Alert.

My Mom had fallen and was being transported to the hospital. In that moment, I was grateful for the technology and the people who could respond to my Mom’s cry for help. I marveled at the kindness of the paramedics that rushed to her aid in the darkness of night.

I was even more grateful for the kindness of my Mom’s friends who responded to Midnight calls for help. One of her lifelong friends even sat with her at the hospital, making sure Mom was well looked after and being taken care of—and not alone.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV

Sweet T and I discussed a plan of action, knowing that I would be gone several days. We worked through our checklist as I prepared to leave town to look after Mom.

I am grateful for my loving wife and her compassion and understanding. Our world had been rocked from a huge high to a big low. But in the darkness shone the lights of gratitude and kindness. That’s what gratitude and kindness do—they shed the light of Christ onto the darkest hours, giving us hope and confidence—the faith that God will work on our behalf, our ever-present help in times of trouble.

I’m in awe of the kindness of doctors, nurses and hospital staff who make things better for others. I’m grateful for their compassion and willingness to put their skills to use to help others. They never see people at their best. They always encounter people traversing through an unexpected valley, readily intervening on their behalf.

The past few days since my Mom’s big fall, I’ve experienced gratitude and witnessed kindness at whole new levels because of a great mix of family, friends, and strangers. Gratitude and kindness must surely be two ingredients comprising goodness. Humility must be rooted in gratitude and kindness. After all, it’s hard to be full of yourself standing amid goodness.

Mom is doing better since her fall. She improves every day. Yes, the long and winding road to full recovery is fairly involved and complicated. But this too shall pass…

God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

What Am I Doing?

God’s timing is not my timing. Frankly, I don’t know what God’s calendar looks like. I don’t have access to it via a supernatural internet portal. I do know that none of us are promised tomorrow. Perhaps that’s why Scripture encourages us not to worry about yesterday’s spilled milk. Yesterday is done and gone. There’s no do-over in life; only repentance and forgiveness.

Having placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we make a conscious effort to turn the course of our life around. We commit to living differently today than we did yesterday. We strive to be kinder, gentler, and humbler.  We submit to God’s will and His plan and are grateful that it includes us in any way, shape, or form. We strive to be more faithful.

We don’t deserve to be included in God’s plan. Grace and mercy aren’t spiritual entitlements. Yet, God freely offers us grace and mercy. We can’t earn them. We can only receive them and having received God’s gift we can only pass it on so that others might know the reason for our new-found optimism. Being redeemed, we desire to imitate and model Christ so that other’s can see the light of life that shines in us because of Him.

We don’t know what the future holds either. Life is truly but a vapor, just like Scripture teaches us it is. We’re here one minute and gone the next. If the last several days have taught me anything it’s to cherish every moment. Love God. Love others. Better.  Deeper. Stronger.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31 (ESV)

Our pastor, Jeff Miller, captured many of our thoughts accurately when he delivered the sermon Sunday. Our hurting, grieving congregation screamed at God from the depth of our collective souls “What are you doing?” Reeling with inexplicable pain that crushed our hearts last week, we were hurt, angry, frustrated, and confused due to the completely unexpected passing of our beloved friend and Worship Pastor. We felt blindsided. We were caught off guard. But we know at the end of the day God is still good. Indeed, God is good all the time and all the time God is good; even in our heartache. He is still worthy of our trust. He is still faithful. Therefore, my focus shifts. It’s not “God, what are you doing?” that I need to ask but in clear view of experiencing a life lived well, I must ask a different question.  What am I doing? That’s the question now.

From the ashes beauty will rise just as in the darkness a light continues to shine.

As I mentioned earlier, it starts with loving God and loving others better, deeper, and more strongly than I did before God called my dear friend home. The guest speaker at Mark’s funeral was right; the world was better with Mark Walton Jones in it. But God called Mark home. Our friend is now celebrating in Heaven. Mark’s work here on Earth is complete. Mine remains unfinished, incomplete. I still have work to do. So do you.

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In the days ahead, I pray and hope to share the Gospel more boldly, more readily, and more frequently than ever before. I pray and hope that my words minister to those who are still lost and lonely and those who feel they are the last and the least in this often times grim world we inhabit. I pray that I can write a story that glorifies God and reaches people for the Kingdom. I hope that I can shine at least a fraction of the light my friend shone in his brief time here on Planet Earth.

As I ask God what He is doing, I have no choice but to look in the mirror and challenge myself and ask, “What am I doing?”

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We are not promised tomorrow. We only know tomorrow will come. We do not know when Christ will return. We only know that He will return.

In the meantime, ask…

What am I doing?

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

Mark 12:29-31 The Message