This has been a difficult summer and the months ahead may prove to be even more tumultuous with a major election looming and unceasing reports of violence. Even within our own circle of family and friends there are divisions and tempers may flare up. It may not be possible to get everyone to agree with one another, but we can remember that we are all God’s family. We can be kind. For that purpose, here are some useful tips:
1. Humility – We need to be able to admit to bad choices, lack of knowledge, disingenuousness, and just plain old mistakes. People of faith need to guard against the self-righteousness that makes them think they are so much better than everyone else. Don’t try to cover up or run from your faults. Remember It doesn’t count in God’s eyes.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV).
2. Forgiveness – First admit that we need it. Then accept it. Next, forgive others as we have been forgiven. Don’t hold grudges. God died for all, no exceptions.
As we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4, NIV)
3. Dialogue – Once we realize we are forgiven and loved, unconditionally, then we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We can listen to each other. We can ask the hard questions. We can tell the truth because we don’t need to hide. We can do this with respect and civility.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32, NIV)
4. Trust – To get anything done, we have to put down our tribal spears and trust one another. This is perhaps the hardest thing of all. It requires faith, courage, and the realization that we are all in this together.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25, NIV)
5. Love – Remember that we are rooted in God’s love and therefore have the power to love others.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV) and “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12, NIV)