The media, whether traditional or social, portrays an increasingly polarized and intolerant world. For all the cries for tolerance, there is more anger against those with differing viewpoints than I can ever remember. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way–and in fact it isn’t that way in many instances.
I have a friend who I’ve known for nearly 30 years. We come from different religious beliefs (I’m Christian and he’s Jewish) and differ on a number of social issues. And yet… I always enjoy being with him and talking with him, and I have an immense amount of respect for him.
First, let me tell you what happened. Like many, I have become frustrated with some things going on the world, even though they are out of my control. I am consciously deciding to spend less time on social media because of the intense anger that I see from both sides of every issue. I need to rebuild my sense of the beauty in the world rather than let these things (which I can’t control anyway) cause me to begin acting and speaking in ways contrary to the man I want to be.
As a result, I’ve begin spending a fair amount of time on artistic websites, appreciating the creativity, imagination, and skill of people with their drawings, paintings, and photographs. I’ve done some sketching and some watercolors. For a long time several years ago, I was seriously into photography, and greatly enjoyed it.
My friend has taken some incredible pictures through the years, and I mentioned to him that I hadn’t seen any lately. I told him that I was spending more time on beauty in my life, and was missing his pictures. I said that when I win the lottery (yeah, I know, you have to buy a ticket) I was going to get some high quality photography gear and get back into that part of my life. He responded that some physical issues prevented him from being able to get out and do the level of photography that he used to do. I sympathized with him, and dropped the subject so as to not make him more self-conscious of the limitations his current life has.
About a week later, a box arrived at my house. It was a high-end Nikon camera body, a top-notch zoom lens, the original battery and a spare, a high-capacity memory card in unopened packaging, a polarizing filter to get rid of sun glare, and an excellent third-party camera case. My friend decided I needed the camera more than he did. In fact, he was unable to find the original manual for it so he paid to get a new one to include in the box.
He could easily have sold the set for hundreds of dollars. Instead, he bought a new memory card, bought a new manual, and paid for it to be packed well and shipped to my home. I wonder how many Christians I know would even have Jewish or Muslim friends, much less sacrifice hundreds of dollars and go out of their way to do something nice for those friends.
Now I should prevent some who claim Christianity from getting upset with my “heresy” and refusing to read further. Let me rush to assure you that I wish my friend would become a Christian–and he knows that. Those who claim to follow Christ have no choice but to adopt two of his key teachings:
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’* The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Jesus said that we are to love everyone else as much as we love ourselves, and that He is the only way to reach God. So it’s impossible for Christ-followers to accept a “lots of roads lead to God” attitude, and it’s equally impossible for Christ-followers to unlove others so much that they don’t want to see them accept Jesus.
Did you know that it is not your responsibility to convert people? The Bible talks about us planting seeds and watering them, but it also says that only God can bring the harvest. Jesus himself said, “For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me.” So how should we live with people who disagree with us, even after we’ve given them our best “come to Jesus” pitch?
We love them. We pray for them. We don’t expect them to live according to Christian principles.
That doesn’t mean we agree with them on everything. That doesn’t mean that we condone things that are wrong. That doesn’t mean that we compromise our principles. But we love them through it all.
My friend dramatically portrayed a beautiful picture of what Judaism means. What picture of Christianity do the Jews and Muslims around you get from how you treat them?