I am becoming more and more saddened by the political and social discourse in our nation. Those who study our culture are giving us fair warning to the dangers of a nation deeply divided. Arthur C. Brooks in his new book, “Love your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America form the Culture of Contempt,” observes, “America is addicted to political contempt.”
This is his description of what is taking place: “While most of us hate what is doing to our country and worry about how contempt coarsens our culture over the long term many of us still compulsively consume the ideological equivalent of meth from elected officials, academics, entertainers, and some of the news media…. we have an insatiable craving for insults to the other side…..We indulge our guilty urge to listen as our biases are confirmed that the other guys are not just wrong, but stupid and evil.”
Contempt he believes is “anger mixed with disgust.” “Contempt,” insists Brooks, “represents not merely an outburst following a moment of deep frustration with another but rather an enduring attitude of complete disdain.”
Wow. I’m convicted. I want to resist getting caught in the increasing cycle of contempt of our day. How about you? I might not say it, but I want my side to win, even if it has total disregard for Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount. “I’m telling you,” Jesus warns us, “that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder……Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple fact is that words kill” (Matt. 5:21-22 – Message). Opponents are killing each other daily.
We are also reminded about our treatment of those who we consider our enemies. “I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matt 5:43 – Message). What a challenge – allowing our enemies to bring out our best, showing our true self in Christ.
Here are four relational postures I work on continually in my new apartment community.
First and foremost I want to be a humble, loving follower of Jesus, who is part of the kingdom reign of Jesus. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Second, my attitude is one of being a servant, putting others ahead of myself, especially when they think differently and are opinionated.. Jesus is my example. “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
Thirdly, let my words be seasoned with salt. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasone with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col 4:6).
Fourthly, learn to listen well. Show interest in the other person’s story and opinion. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (I Peter 5:5).
Fifthly, live in forgiveness. I can easily be offended. “Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive and offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you” (Col. 3:13 – Message).
Finally, in a culture of contempt, I am learning to lament and cry out for God to have mercy on our nation. “In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2 NLT).