We Are Not Enemies

Pause. Breathe. Listen.

The past year or two have been tough for nearly everyone. There is a lot of frustration, fear, distrust, and uncertainty with legitimate reasons persons feel these. As a result, there is a lot of anger and criticism, but a lack of love, compassion, and understanding. As I’ve come to realize recently, I am not guiltless of these. I’ve posted my share of venting of anger and criticism. Yet, each day I meet or pass people who wear masks and those who don’t; some have been vaccinated while some have not yet done so or refuse to. Many are black, white, brown, etc. Many ha e differing views than me. None of us are enemies in the real sense of the word. Most have no ill-will toward one another. In fact, most have families they love and desire to protect and provide for. Most are just wanting to survive this craziness that surrounds us. 

If you’re reading this, know that you are not alone. Each of us, to some measure, are feeling frustrated, scared, suspicious, and uncertain. We are not enemies, but we need to pause, breathe, and listen to one another. Our feelings have not arisen for no reason. But instead of listening to the talking heads on tv or the blabbering voices on the radio, May we see each other as we are—persons living in chaotic times. May we find that grace can help us to have one another’s backs, eyes to see past the exterior, shoulders for each other to lean and cry on, hands to help each other up, ears to listen to the concerns, arms to hug and hold onto one another, to help each other as we can, and words to instill courage, hope, and comfort to one another.

We are not enemies. We are but persons living in difficult times. May we love one another. Together we can get through this, by His grace.

Be of good courage.

Love deeply (even those who have different views).

Help others, knowing they’re wrestling through all this mess too.

And remember that we are not enemies. Blessings to you, my friends.

Racism is such an unfortunate term, as it implies “blacks” and “whites” are different races. We are all part of one race—the human race.

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. ~ Revelation 5:9

The Way to Keep Racism Alive Is by Not Killing It

Recently the Coca Cola Company came under criticism for an online training seminar for staff to “try to be less white.” I am reminded of a line in the movie, The Shadowlands, (starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger). A professor shares with Joy (played by Winger) a chauvinistic opinion, to which she replies, “I don’t know if you’re trying to be offensive or just simply stupid.”

So many people in the political, business, and entertainment realms profess to abhor racism, while in truth, they do not. If our society truly wanted to eradicate racism, it would try to kill it and not simply turn it in a different direction.

“Try to be less white,” say some of those in the Coca Cola world. First of all, what does this even mean? Second, could you imagine a company telling select employees, “try to be less black,” “try to be less Latino,” or “try to not be so Asian”? Such statements are, in themselves, racist. So, if we really want to see racism die, directing it to another group is not going to kill it. It merely continues to feed and breed it.

“I’m so ashamed to be white,” some of those in Hollywood and Washington have said. Liars! If they were truly ashamed of being white and having “white privilege” they would truly hang their heads in shame instead of trying to seek more attention. They would distribute some of their well overpaid salaries to help the less fortunate communities. They claim to be so “ashamed,” yet still they love the limelight.

The statements that really upset me, however, are those that claim caucasians are bad, on the basis they are white. This is not an attack on Aryan-ism, but simply a turning it in a different direction or redefining it. It is simply a shifting in saying, “Blacks are criminals, based on they are black.” Of course, this statement is just as malicious and wrong. But we do not deal with racism by shifting words. Rather, we begin treating one another, regardless of pigmentation, with dignity and respect.

The color of a person’s skin is never what defines him or her of their personality or character. Over the years, I have seen the humanity of persons, regardless of their color. I have met some very wonderfully kind, generous, intelligent, and funny whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian, etc. I have also met some very rude, selfish, ignorant, and vulgar whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian, etc.

“Honor everyone,” the apostle Peter tells us (1 Pet. 2:17).

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. ~ James 2:8-9

To hate or belittle any person on the basis of their skin color, ethnicity, or heritage is to trample on the heart of God. We are granted an amazing glimpse surrounding the throne of God in heaven:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~ Revelation 7:9-10

The way to keep racism alive is by not killing it. As long as we continue to belittle, attack, and speak condescendingly on one another based on our color or ethnicity, we simply keep adding fuel to the fire instead of letting the embers finally die out.

The Anatomy of Love

Our society talks a lot about love. It is portrayed in movies, sang about in songs, placed on t-shirts (eg., “I [heart] _____”), and painted on posters (e.g., “Give love a chance” “Make love, not war”). But the love of the world is, too often, romanticized and superficial. After all, many in Hollywood know nothing of devoted commitment of the characters they portray. Music celebrities are often known for their activities with groupies after the gigs. T-shirts are mere pieces of cloth, and those at protest rallies with posters crying out for love are often vessels of hatred, spewing out, “Burn in hell!” Die, you pigs!” “Damn you!” to all who disagree with their position.

The world’s version(s) of love is childish, fairy-tale make believe. The world’s version is like a marshmallow, a squishy puff of sugar. However, authentic love has substance of bone and flesh, so to speak, having an actual anatomy.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Now, let’s consider briefly the anatomy, or structure, of love:

Patient (or long-suffering) – love bears with other’s differences, quirks, and mistakes without becoming quickly annoyed or rejecting hastily.

Kind – love is gentle and benevolent.

Content – love is not competitive; it is not envious when someone else has nor does it boast when someone else does not have.

Humble – love views others with equality of worth; it does not show partiality nor is it filled with contempt for others. Love does not feel superior to others.

Selfless – love does not demand its own way but considers the needs and wants of others. 

Levelheaded / Forgiving – love does not keep tally each time another fails, demanding absolute perfection. Love does not nurse a grudge to keep such bitterness alive.

Righteous / Honest – love does not not delight in evil or harm of others, nor does it take any delight in falsehood, gossip, or slander.

When fleshed out, love has real substance. Genuine love is not for the weak. Any fool can get angry, be rude, refuse to forgive, or desire harm to another. Any fool can scream profanities and derogatory statements in the midst of a rally. And any fool can look upon another with such contempt and hatred easily enough. 

It is easy to betray a friendship when one does not get his or her own way. It is easy to curse another rather than taking the time to understand them. However, what is hard, what is extremely difficult, is having genuine benevolence for others simply because they are human beings, regardless if they are like us, or attractive to us, or even kind toward us.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good …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. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:9, 13-21

In the Person of Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of genuine love put into action. Jesus was kind and welcoming to the misfits and outcasts; He was gentle with people’s failures and shortcomings. While the Scriptures do show He was angry on a few occasions, it was always in connection with people’s hypocrisy, injustice, and hard-heartedness towards others; ironically, He prayed for forgiveness concerning those who persecuted and crucified Him.

Genuine love is both benevolent and sacrificial for the sake of others. For all the talk and portrayals of love in our society, do these correspond with reality? How can it when we are so busy flinging mud, refusing to see any common ground; when we have such disdain for others whose political leanings are different than ours; when the “end justifies the means” while destroying others, regardless of any deception or smoke and mirrors, as if injustice can bring about justice?

My friend, love is hard. It requires courage to lower the defenses and resolve to put off our egos. It requires humility to “turn the other cheek” and to consider the needs of others. It requires commitment to hang tight when every part of you simply wants to let go. Only as we are willing to become weak will we truly become strong.

“Hell no! That’s stupid! I’m not humbling myself for nobody!” many will say. Ah, but this is precisely why we are in the mangled, divided mess we are in today. Nevertheless, unless we are willing to humble our own selves, extend kindness, meet on some common ground, and treat others with courtesy and respect, we might as well throw away our banners and burn our placards extolling love and unity. For there is no other way these can be attained. We must study the anatomy of love and put into practice its various elements. Cursing, force, and violence will only  produce more unrest, keeping us in the mangled, bloody mess we are in. Only genuine love will lead us to a productive peace and unity we claim to desire.

The Lost Priceless Art of Common Courtesy

Many of the narrators (i.e., the talking heads) say the problem in America is “racism,” but I dare say the problem is deeper than this. You see, in my fair amount of years of living, I have known very few people who were racist in the true sense of the word, regardless of their ethnicity. Oh sure, there are cliques and biases, but every color and sector has these. For example, when I was a teen there was a fellow a few years older than me who lived in the same apartment complex. He had a shirt that read, “If You Ain’t Chicano, You Ain’t Caca!” Today, such a shirt would be  considered “racist,” yet this person was not racist. His friends included blacks, whites, and Asians.

The deeper problem today, I believe, is the decline in respect and common courtesy all around. I have seen such a rise in disrespect toward others from elementary schools to professional political platforms.

I have witnessed people treating employees at fast food restaurants and department stores as though these individuals are beneath them, as they yelled and belittled them. I’ve seen videos of cops being screamed and cussed at because they pulled persons over for speeding. I’ve observed young men treating others with contempt yet demanding respect. I’ve experienced reaching my hand out only to have persons look down at my hand then back at me, keeping their arms crossed.

In media, whole groups of people are generalized and demonized—especially if persons or groups do not share the same opinions and agendas.

Kids can cuss and threaten teachers or bully students; yet, many parents will side with their children—regardless of the rebellious behavior. Some parents yell awful, demeaning things at kids’ sporting events. Many belittle police officers, referring to them as the “pigs.” We live in a day where the position of president is not even respected. I read of a children’s book recently portraying President Trump as a pig. There has been a growth in numbers who show utmost disrespect for the flag, those in the military, and those who have sacrificed much. Let us not forget the disrespect shown to our elders. I recently came across a video of and elderly man of color being punched by a group of young men of color for wearing a US winter hat.

We’ve become a society having a sense of entitlement, as if somehow others owe us something. But why would anyone owe us anything while we “do not owe anyone a single thing”?

The disrespect and lack of courtesy transcends color, ethnicity, gender, economic class, etc., and these have poisoned our society like nothing else can. How can our country deal with racism if it disregards the necessity of respect. Mind you, showing respect does not mean to agree with someone or to like them. Rather, it is to show honor for a person’s position and/or personhood. Yet, how often I will hear people say, “I’m not going to respect him/her, they don’t deserve respect. Respect is to be earned!” What a bunch of baloney! We’re to demand respect while dishing out disrespect?! It does not work this way, and this is precisely a major reason our society is in the mess it is in.

The Bible tells us:

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. ~ Matthew 7:12

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. ~ 1 Peter 2:17

How can we cry out for love and justice if we cannot even show respect and common courtesy to one another? This is like crying out for light and warmth, yet pouring water over any flickering flames.

Somewhere on a shelf in the dark basement of the human heart is the lost, but ever so valuable, art of common courtesy. Until we can find this and finally display it again, the cries against racism, injustice, etc. are but also a lost cause.