|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on October 5, 2014 at 4:40 AM|
Recently I came across this quote attributed to the American rapper, Eminem:
"I don't care if you're black, white, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Simple as that."
I'm not sure where the quote originates from, whether it was in an interview or what, but the sentiment seems to be shared by a number of people, resulting in this quote being widespread across the Internet and undoubtedly "Liked", "Shared" and "Retweeted" across social media to further encourage this honourable philosophy.
I agree with it too, and can see why it is popular. The thing I think it conveys most is a sense of having no prejudice. People are keen to ally themselves with this method of thinking in order to publicly state "Look, I'm not racist, homophobic, sizeist, or otherwise discriminatory!"
And so we shouldn't be. Numerous places in the Bible show that God looks on us as equals, regardless of who we are and it is always important to remember that we are no "better" or "worse" than anyone else we meet. It's quite a humbling experience to know that.
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile [non-Jew], neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ." ~ Galatians 3:28
"Then Peter began to speak, 'I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism'" ~ Acts 10:34
"For there is no difference between Jew and Genitle - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him" ~ Romans 10:12
But despite the quote having the focus on prejudice, or rather a lack of it, it's the conclusion that I think we should focus on. Yes, I agree completely that if someone is nice to you, you should be nice to them. What sort of person is nasty or rude to someone who is pleasant or respectful? It's just common decency, surely? I think that the issue being addressed here is that some otherwise lovely people turn into more arrogant or intolerant people when they meet someone against whom they have a prejudice and suddenly their common decency disappears.
But moving beyond this philosophy of equality, let's look at the crux of the matter:
"If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Simple as that."
Yes, that's perfectly simple. Or is it? What about when people are rude, abusive, nasty, unpleasant, judgemental, or aggressive towards you? How do you respond then? Do you give as good as you get? Fight fire with fire? Ignore them? Get revenge? Or what?
This, I believe, is where human nature and God's instructions are going to differ. Human nature is riled by rudeness. If someone isn't very nice to you, likelihood is you're not going to like it and you will react in a negative way in return. How one reacts depends on the severity of the situation and the personality of the people in question. There may be retaliatory violence, harsh words or just muted ill-feeling that gnaws away at the victim.
But God taught us a revolutionary way to handle abuse and aggression, but it goes against our human nature and that's what makes it so difficult to carry out.
Christ taught us repeatedly to love and pray for those who aren't pleasant to you, and this can be extremely tough. But Jesus led by example and he suffered more than most of us will ever experience yet he did not retaliate. His most trialling time came within the last week of his life, when he was subjected to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the Jewish and Roman authorities. He was insulted, lied about, slapped, beaten, tortured and eventually crucified yet even at this most anguished time in his life, he called out to God, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Jesus forewarned us to expect abuse and hatred. Everyone suffers it to a greater or lesser degree in their lives. Sometimes there is little justice or rationale behind someone's nasty attitude and sometimes it is more expected. But God looks at the way we handle ourselves in such situations. Jesus and his disciples suffered a lot as the early Church sought to spread its message far and wide and most of Christ's followers met early deaths and suffered greatly for their faith. But throughout the New Testament, the overriding principle in matters of persecution is one of compassion and forgiveness. Love is the strongest emotion of all.
So I conclude this blog entry with some quotes of Jesus and his followers on the subject of how to handle ourselves when we encounter people who aren't nice to us first:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" ~ Matthew 5:43-48
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" ~ Romans 12:14
"Do unto others as you would have them do to you." ~ Luke 6:31
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty give him water to drink" ~ Proverbs 25:21
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil." ~ Romans 12:17
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." ~ Matthew 5:11-12
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." ~ Matthew 5:38-42
"But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and enduring it? But if you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God." ~ 1 Peter 2:20