I have a secret. It's not something I'm proud of, and it's not something I tell too many people. OK, deep breath... I have been listening to conservative talk radio. It's been going on for a few months now, ever since football season ended. But it's not what it seems, I promise.
I have been thinking a lot lately about perspectives. How do seemingly intelligent people, armed with the same facts about any given subject, come to polar opposite conclusions? How can very smart people be atheists, and other very smart people be Christian, not to mention all the very smart people of other religions. Or take any number of issues in politics. Passionate people on both sides of the argument seem to have the same end goal in mind, but the debate quickly becomes a name-calling contest, with both sides accusing the other of being out of touch and ignoring the facts. The level of vitriol that exists in politics almost negates any positive influence it may have.
Like I said, I have been listening to talk radio lately, but is not something new for me. I used to listen pretty often, and at that time, I largely agreed with the opinions being broadcast. A lot has changed since then, and my social and political views have shifted pretty dramatically. So listening to it again gives me a whole new perspective on some issues that I thought pretty much every intelligent person agreed on. I'm not going to go into any of those issues (sorry political people), but I do want to share what I've learned about myself and about perspective in general.
I realized pretty quickly, as I was yelling at my radio, that it's tough to love someone if you think they are an idiot, or more precisely, if you don't value and respect their opinions. And it is very difficult to value opinions if they are the opposite of your opinions. Our natural tendency is to dismiss them as wrong, without much further thought or insight. Everyone should agree with me, because I'm right. The funny thing, for me at least, is that my own opinions have changed over the years. What I felt very strongly about a few years ago, I now believe the opposite. I find that I can identify with the guy on the radio, even if I think he's wrong, because I was once where he is. Believe it or not, keeping this in mind really helps to see where he is coming from, even if I don't agree with him.
I often see Christians who lack perspective. Hard line anti-this or that, up on their moral high horse, making it look like Christ's love is the last thing on their mind. When we are so opposed to some amoral behavior, we often lack the perspective to say, "I was once where he is." If you intend to follow Jesus, then your desire to have people behave morally must be secondary to your desire to love them. Remember Jesus socializing with sinners? He knew that loving them would make a difference in their lives, so he didn't care what the religious leaders thought. They were concerned with making sure everyone followed the rules and morals of society.
Recognizing that we've all been there, in the exact condition that the people we are looking down on, brings a sense of perspective. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is a favorite saying of the morally superior crowd, but moral superiority very often gets in the way of loving people. I wonder if Jesus would have eaten dinner with those people that Christians tend to marginalize, like atheists, LGBTs, drug addicts, adulterers, illegal immigrants, Muslims, drunks, prostitutes. If we keep them at arm's length, while Jesus embraces them, how can we say that we are sharing the love of Christ?