As anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the Judeo-Christian Bible knows, that book is composed of a collection of writings which were...
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Unfortunately, although they are among some of the most often quoted scriptures within the Christian community, Christ's teachings on the way that people should treat each other are among the most ignored and misunderstood principles attributed to him! In fact, almost everyone who is even vaguely familiar with Christian theology will recognize the three most pertinent scriptures associated with this subject. They are:
"Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye." --Matthew 7:1-5, NLT here and throughout this post
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you." --Luke 6:27-31
"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” --John 13:34-35
In reading over these well-known scriptures again, we see that Christ's teachings about interpersonal relationships involved four key concepts: Love, treating others the way you would like to be treated, refraining from offering judgments of others, and focusing on the improvement of one's own behavior/character. And, when we give even a cursory thought as to how we might implement these principles, we recognize that things like empathy, kindness, patience, mercy and forgiveness become essential components of putting these principles into practice in our own lives. Indeed, our musings about how to implement these principles bring other teachings of Christ and Paul to mind and give us some sense of the logical progression of Christ's thinking on the subject of interpersonal relationships.
For instance, we remember Christ's response to Peter's question about how often we should be willing to forgive each other (see Matthew 18:21). Feeling generous, Peter suggested that a willingness to forgive someone seven times might be appropriate. “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!" (Matthew 18:22) One can also hear the echo of Christ's admonition to "turn the other cheek" in Paul's instruction to Roman Christians to "never pay back evil with more evil (Romans 12:17).
Likewise, in this context, Paul's definition of love, admonition to take care of each other's consciences, and his enumeration of the "fruits of the Spirit" take on new meaning. We remember that he wrote to the saints of Corinth: "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." --I Corinthians 13:4-7 And that he wrote to the saints of Rome: "Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval." --Romans 14:1-4 Finally, Paul wrote to the saints of Galatia on this wise: "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" --Galatians 5:22-23
In similar fashion, in the first epistle of John we read: "Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness." --I John 2:7-11
Unfortunately, while we can readily see the philosophical harmony extant in the various writings of the New Testament regarding Christ's teachings on the subject of interpersonal relationships, it is also very apparent that many of those who have professed to follow in his footsteps down through the centuries have often not applied the principles which he espoused. Moreover, when this discrepancy is pointed out, all too often, the reaction of many Christians has been to excuse their behavior and/or reinterpret the plain meaning of the principles which Christ, Paul and John taught about interpersonal relationships! In other words, there is no sorrow/remorse - no repentance - no softening of the heart - and no attempt to correct the way that he/she interacts with others. Nevertheless, one could certainly make the case that these teachings are foundational - that these principles are elemental to the Christian religion!