12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. 14 And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
4 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, 5 it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, 6 it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. 7 Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
Nowhere in Scripture will you find instructions that say, “Treat your neighbors with kindness, unless their beliefs differ from yours.” Implicit in Paul’s instructions was the understanding that we are to treat all people with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We are, in fact, to love all people. Admittedly, this becomes more complicated when people’s fundamental beliefs are not the same as yours. Rather than looking at this as a problem and trying to “fix” them, Paul said (cf. especially Romans 14:1-15:7), see it as a way to love extravagantly, working to find unity in unexpected places.
Compassionate God, help me to major in majors and minor in minors—and leave the judging to you. Help me to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Amen.
* To read Wesley’s entire sermon, “A Catholic Spirit” edited into modern English, click here.
Today’s reflection questions are tough. How do we “love alike” when we do not “think alike?”
All I have to do is scroll through my social media feed or turn on the television, and I’m reminded of how divided we all are right now. There are many people with whom I don’t agree on a variety of issues.
I’ll admit that my coping strategy has been to keep my opinions to myself and avoid conflict. I don’t want to engage in political arguments with people who I love and care about. It really is easier to focus on the those things we do have in common and the love we share as family and friends.
But what about those people with whom I don’t have an existing relationship? I can treat them with civility and respect, but if I’m being honest, that may also mean avoidance and disregard. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind when he said “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
As I was reflecting this week on how I might align my heart with my actions and be more intentional in loving the neighbor with whom I disagree, I identified one simple approach. What if I were to end more thoughts with a question mark instead of an exclamation point?
Here’s how it works with the right punctuation.
Someone posts something on Facebook that I do not agree with. My initial response might be: “HOW CAN SHE THINK THAT!” All caps and an exclamation point – you can hear the tone, right? I probably wouldn't write or say this (conflict avoidance) but it’s what I’m thinking, and it’s in my heart.
What could happen if instead of ending that statement with the exclamation point, my response is a question: “How can she think that?” I may still disagree, but I’m opening myself to listen and learn from a different point of view. And, that simple act of listening can be the first step toward understanding, love and a change of heart.
Punctuation does matter. As John Wesley wrote, “May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?” (question) “Without doubt, we may.” (Definitive statement that ends with a period).
Lord, help me to love my neighbor.
PS: I got a sneak peek of Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon that Resurrection will share this weekend, and it is powerful and inspiring! You won’t want to miss worship. Join us online at cor.org/live Saturday at 5pm or Sunday at 7:30am, 9:15am, 11am or 5pm.
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