We’re all witnessing the demise of our communities today. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting restrictions, the current protests, and the politics that surround them—we’re seeing one negative incident after another, and much of it occurs without respect, consideration, or love for our fellow neighbors. While it’s easy to diagnose the problems that we see around us, it isn’t always as easy to include ourselves in the diagnoses.
I would like to suggest a few ways in which we can be good neighbors and members of our communities.
We can listen to others. We are, in a sense, run over each and every day by the speed and velocity of news, social media, and information. We receive news even before its verified. We know of romance, breakups, weddings, divorces, new movies, bankruptcies, plastic surgeries: you name it, we’re not only told about a hundred things a day, but we’re also told what we should think about it. The truth is, we’d do well to listen to others before we gained our information from any news outlet or social media platform. “If one gives an answer before he hears,” the book of Proverbs says, “it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).
Next, we can respect others. Whether or not it is lived out well by Christians, a Christian principle is that each and every life—from the womb to the grave—is unique and valuable. It’s stated plainly in Psalm 138:13-15. There, the Psalmist acknowledges God’s creative work when he writes, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Every life is valuable, because God is the creator of us all. We should, therefore, respect each other.
Next, we can speak the truth to others. I recall an anecdote about Mark Twain (who was known for swearing) and his wife, Livy. After cutting himself while shaving, Twain commenced cursing and swearing. Frustrated with the foul language again, Livy said back to Twain exactly what he had said in anger. In his typical humor, Twain said, “Livy, dear, you’ve got the words right, but your tone is all wrong.” Speaking the truth isn’t always the problem; sometimes the way we speak the truth is the problem. In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul teaches Christians something interesting. He not only says that Christians should speak the truth, but that they should speak the truth in love.
In the end, we all have a lot to learn, and not just from the magnificent books that have been compiled before us, but from each other, too. Yet, I wonder if we’re posturing ourselves to learn.
I wonder if, between our own frustration and the constant bombardment of information, we’re vacillating somewhere between indifference and frustration. It may help if we get back to some simple Christian principles, like listening, respecting, and speaking the truth in love.