How we treat and talk about others tells them much about ourselves and our beliefs about God.
How we treat and talk about the poor, strangers, the sick, and those in prison says a great deal about ourselves and the God we claim to follow. How we treat and talk about our enemies says more about us than our enemies.
How we treat and talk about others proclaims loudly to the world the gospel we truly believe and have faith in.
If we blame the poor for our budgetary problems, then we believe in a god who only blesses the wealthy and blames the poor for being lazy. We are saying we put our faith in a god who only helps those who help themselves. We are rejecting the God of the bible, the one who specifically says that God favors the poor. Read James 2:1-13
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.
Or Luke 6:20
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Or just google Jesus or God and the poor to find the numerous references to this.
If we reject and cast out and turn away the stranger, the refugee, the asylum seeker, then we believe in a god which values our safety and security over the lives of those fleeing certain death. We are rejecting the God of the bible, the one who specifically tells us to welcome the stranger. Read Matthew 25:35
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
…extend hospitality to strangers.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
How we treat and talk about those that are sick and in prison tells the world what we truly believe and have faith in. If we speak and act as those the sick and those in prison are less valuable, then we are proclaiming what we believe about the god we worship.
Matthew 25:36 speaks about this.
I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
How we treat and talk about our enemies certainly says more about us, than it does about our enemies. It proclaims loudly what we believe about the god we worship and follow. When we dehumanize and demonize our enemies, we are proclaiming that we worship a god who also dehumanizes, demonizes, and sees no value in the lives of our enemies. And we reject the God of the bible who proclaims in John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 Peter 3:9
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
If we can make excuses for why we aren’t following Scripture in relation to how we treat and talk about others, then do we really worship God? Do we really follow Jesus?
It seems that our technicalities and excuses are given because we don’t like what God has to say. We don’t think God knows what God is talking about. We prefer to do things our way, which leads us back to the very first sin in the garden – thinking that we know more than God.
In essence, we are reshaping God in our own image so that God serves us, not the other way around. We are making God in our image and likeness. We are embracing brokenness rather than being embraced by God who promises to dwell with us, renew us and live in peace, love, mercy, and grace. We are proclaiming our preference for an anemic god who won’t mess with us, won’t change our lives, won’t change the world, won’t make us uncomfortable, won’t inconvenience us.
We are also proclaiming that God doesn’t go all the way to death and back for us. We are proclaiming that God leaves us alone and to our own devices to figure out the world for ourselves. We are proclaiming that God doesn’t care about our politics or our policies – especially when it comes to how we treat others. We are proclaiming that God doesn’t have a say about our money and possessions.
What kind of god is this? A sad and pathetic god frankly. A god who values stuff over people. A god who sees nothing wrong with mass shootings and violence – why would I serve such a god? That is a god who doesn’t give a damn about any of us. That kind of god doesn’t call on us to do something to stop such massacres. A god who turns a blind eye to corruption and abuse. A god who is sleeping at the wheel. A god who doesn’t care if we worship other gods – such as money, power, strength, work, guns, violence, sports, health, food, sex, intelligence, education, and anything else that we can put in front of God. I’m not interested in such a pathetic god.
I want the God that encounters us and changes our lives. I want the God that intervenes. I want a jealous God who loves us to the point of death. I want the God that is bringing a new order and brings God’s kingdom and reign. That’s the God I want. This is the God who calls on us to live differently, to speak differently. Because it is in living and speaking differently that we get a foretaste of the feast to come.
So, let us treat one another differently from the world. Let us love one another. Let us follow Jesus and what he says about how we are to treat one another. Let us stop the memes, the dehumanizing and devaluing of people. Let us stop the blaming and scapegoating. Let us stop promoting policies and politicians that proclaim a gospel of fear, anger, and anxiety – a message of us versus them. Let us close our ears to messages of division and might makes right. Let us reject the gospel of the ends justify the means.
Instead let us follow the live according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 –
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.