Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Be Kind

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
-Philo of Alexandria

For the last few days, I find myself returning again and again to this simple post over at microlesia. I really like the Chagall painting and, synchronistically, I happened across this article from the WSJ online about Chagall and his fascination with Jesus Christ and the iconography of Christianity.

Lately, I've been thinking about worldviews, in particular some aspects of how Christians and non-Christians view the world around them and, especially, some of the specific ways that each views the other. I am interested in some of the misperceptions that each hold about the nature of the other. I know that some people think that Christians are judgmental, hypercritical, and hypocritical all at once. And that can undoubtedly be true, not a misperception at all, really. Some of us aren't very good at being Christian. Some of us have good days and bad days. None of us are anywhere near perfect, and most of us fail much more often than we succeed in living the representative Christian life. But then, our standard is Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself, the only perfect man. Nobody can do that.

And that is ultimately a point that both Christians and non-Christians should understand about each other and about themselves. All of us are demonstrably unable, on our own, to live in a manner that consistently reflects virtue and goodness. This observable truth should, in fact, give some comfort to non-believers. Christians are truly no better than anyone else, especially those who think and attempt to act like they are. And, for the Christian, that truth should provide ample humility and compassion sufficient to last a lifetime.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:8-10


jeff said...

One would think that love would be a unifying concept, however, if a Christian loves someone they will share the Gospel, which comes across as very unloving to many "lost." You'd have to analyze the "loveview" of the Christian and non-christian and perhaps it's this difference in the view of love that determines major aspects of the resulting worldview. Wow, I'm sounding surprisingly philosophical so early in the morning.

Jenn said...

I have been thinking about this a TON lately, but have been afraid to blog about it at the length at which I have been thinking about it, partly for fear of offending someone, and partly because I don't even know where to begin.

As for Jeff's comment--I think if a Christian truly loves the person with whom they are sharing the Gospel, a relationship between the two will often already be in place, and the recipient of the evangelistic attention will understand that they're being offered this out of that love, whether they choose to accept it or not.

Aaron said...

I've had mixed dealing and mixed feelings with Christians.

I come from a Christian family: my mom and siblings go to church regularly, my grandparents are episcopalians, etc. But somehow or other, I turned out as an atheist. I'm just happier this way. Christianity never answered the questions I had, and I've never been one to accept something on blindfaith.

Most people I know who ARE christians are the non-evangelical variety, they respect my different views, and we get along fine.

Every once in a while I meet the real vehement gung-ho evangelical variety, or the kind that try to convert me by "proving me wrong," and we usually end up not being very cordial. But that's not too common. :)

I do wish that more people would understand what it means to be an atheist though -- I think too many people associate atheism with immoral debauchery, compsulving "sinning", and acts of evil. It's pretty much the antithesis of that.

Barry Pike said...

Thanks Aaron, for a frank and thoughtful response. I value your feedback and input. I’ve been thinking about your comments for several days and will likely write about some of the issues you mention in the near future.

I agree with you on a couple of things, for sure. I think it is extremely rare, if indeed it ever happens, that someone is “argued” into faith in God (or anything else, for that matter). I have never heard of anyone bested in an argument, overcome mentally by the weight of evidence and truth, who ever said, “You know, I guess you’re right…, “ and then becomes a Christian on the spot. The arena of intellectual debate is not the venue for that to happen. It’s a little like playing a game of football on a golf green…you can do it, but at the end of the game the score is not going to reflect anyone’s handicap and the grass will be a mess.

Jenn said...

Ditto Barry.

Also, Aaron, just to put my own two cents in:

Good points. It occurred to me after reading your comment that even if a Christian truly loved the person they were talking to about their faith, they might not do it in the most loving way. Case in point: I once had a friend I cared about very much, and our arguments about faith were more heated than anything I've ever experienced. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure we both knew we were safe to argue like that (even when it didn't seem--or feel--very loving) because we DID care about each other.

Also, I appreciate your point about Christian assumptions about atheist morals. You're right; it seems to be an overall "Christian" presupposition. And you're right. It isn't fair, largely because it isn't accurate.

I suppose it probably comes from a couple of different factors. The first may, unfortunately, be fear. But I wouldn't rule out the atheists who ARE blatantly immoral (not that some self-proclaiming Christians aren't, either). Another reason for the assumption might be the inability to understand where a moral standard comes from without a God to "pin it on," so to speak. I'm puzzled by this myself; maybe you could help me.

Finally, I wonder if sometimes Christians resort to argument instead of loving dialogue because of atheist accusations of "blind faith." I think that phrase is probably just as incendiary and just as unfair as as the assumption of atheist immorality. Of course some people never examine the "faith of their fathers (and mothers)." But that doesn't meant that NOBODY ever does.

Just because, say, I couldn't convince you in an intellectual argument that there is a God, and that Jesus is the unique human manifestation of that God, and that it's in everyone's best interests to spend their lives learning to trust Him and follow Him, doesn't mean that I haven't examined (and struggled through, and fought with) the concepts. And it doesn't mean that I haven't found them satisfying. I have, on many levels. Just because you can't understand all the processes and evidences that I have for my faith (as I can't see yours), doesn't mean I'm following it blindly.

Barry Pike said...

A beautiful and thoughtful response, Jenn. Thank you.