Tag Archives: discrimination

Christ calls Christians to Behave Consistent with Christian Teaching

FlowersMoreThanDecoration_2

Last week, this blog featured the story of Dr. Vesni Roi who chose not to accept a patient whose legal caregivers were two lesbian women. In that case, the doctor referred the patient to a different pediatrician who was not troubled by the fact that treating the newborn baby involve working professionally with a lesbian couple as if this trio of people were a family. In Michigan, the doctor’s right to accept or reject patients because of her Christian principles was not challenged, because Michigan has no law that gives legal standing to such a complaint. The story has, however, inspired a great deal of public controversy about the lack of a law to prevent her choice.

This week’s post features a story with a very different ending, although the fundamental issue for Christians is identical. Barronelle Stutzman operates a florist shop in the state of Washington. When a long-time customer asked her to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding, Barronelle refused. She told him that her relationship with Christ prevented her from any participation in a same-sex wedding. She referred him to other florists, and more than one florist offered to do the wedding at no charge. After the partner of Barronelle’s customer engaged in a Facebook rant, the attorney general of the state of Washington took Barronelle to court, alleging she had broken a state law against discrimination. Her defense was her commitment to live according to the teachings of her religion. A few weeks ago, a judge ruled that Barronelle had a right to hold personal principles based in her faith, but she has no right to act on them. Read here and here for more details

This ruling directly contradicts the Christian principle of living the faith. The Bible teaches in very clear language that Christians are not really Christians when they only mouth the words of the faith. In the book of James, the author speaks at great length about the importance of living the faith. He says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22 ESV). More importantly, Jesus himself says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 ESV). Jesus said that mental assent is not sufficient. Action in accord with faith is expected. The apostle Paul was more graphic. He explains the importance of the actions of a Christian by comparing actions to the components of a building.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. –1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV

Paul teaches that the deeds of a Christian must build up the church, the way construction materials contribute to a physical building, and God will judge those deeds. Trash will be burned up in the fire of God’s judgment and only deeds that survive that fire will be valued in God’s eyes. It is clear that the words and deeds of Christians count for something. It is not enough to claim to be a Christian. Even knowing all the books of the Bible is not enough. Memorizing part or even the entire Bible is irrelevant if it makes no impact on a person’s words and deeds.

The ultimate test is what happens at the final judgment, the end of time. What will survive the cataclysm that burns up the old heaven and the old earth? The book of Revelation speaks of the tests Christians face daily to deny the faith and do things inconsistent with Christ’s teaching. In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Jesus says, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5 ESV bolding mine). To the church at Thyatira, Jesus writes, “I know your works,” (Revelation 2:19 ESV) after which he proceeds to describe the evil deeds, and then he says that his rewards are for “the one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end” (Revelation2:26 ESV bolding mine). Repeatedly Jesus says, “I know your works,” and then he holds the people who make up the churches accountable for living up to his teachings.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right of every citizen to do the things required in order to be faithful to whatever religion he or she chooses. Numerous court decisions have expanded the meaning of that amendment to make it clear that “free exercise” of religion does not extend to a right to harm other persons or property. Barronelle Stutzman harmed nobody. She did no harm to anyone’s property. She simply stated her conviction about marriage and declined to be a party to behavior that conflicts with her relationship with Christ.

Christ calls Christians to speak and act consistent with their professed faith. Dr. Roi and Barronelle Stutzman have done that. Pray for these two Christians to be vindicated for living their faith. Pray for Christians around the country to have the same courage and grace these women have shown in the face of cultural and legal threats to people of faith. What would you do in these situations?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

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When in Doubt, What do you Do?

pediatrician with baby edited

A generally accepted principle of Christian living is that when people feel confused about the right thing to do, they should prayerfully look for an answer in the Bible. Christians are taught that the Bible is clear enough for a child to understand important teachings, and there is plenty of evidence of this truth. Christians also discover, as they mature in the faith, that there is depth and complexity in the Bible that baffles people with astronomical IQs. There is plenty of evidence of this truth as well. For this reason, Christians learn to look for mentors to help them prayerfully study the Bible and listen for God’s guidance. It all boils down to a problem: people of faith may or may not agree on the right thing to do in every situation.

Recently a pediatrician, Dr. Vesni Roi, in Michigan was faced with a situation in which she was uncertain what to do. Two lesbian women who live together in a union they call a marriage selected her for the care of a child yet to be born. The article that reports the story does not make it quite clear who would give birth to the baby. The articles do report that after reviewing the credentials of numerous pediatricians, the two women decided to ask Dr. Rio to care for the child.

When the time came for the child’s first visit, six days after birth, the women were told that Dr. Roi had decided not to accept the baby as her patient. She referred them to another pediatrician in the same practice. She explained in a handwritten note to the women that her decision was made after considerable prayer. Her expressed reason for the decision was stated in her note: “I feel that I would not be able to develop the normal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients.” While the note never mentions the issue of homosexual union, the two women consider the decision to be a rejection of homosexuality, even though as one of them pointed out, it could not be about the sexual orientation of the baby, since the baby was too young to have expressed any sexual orientation. Since all conversation about the care of a newborn would necessarily take place with the adult (or adults) charged with the care of the child, it makes sense to conclude that, when the doctor referred to the “patient doctor relationship” in her note, she was saying that she did not feel she could have the same relationship with the two women that she would normally have with the parents or guardians of a child in her care.

Why would she feel this way?

Dr. Roi’s bio includes earning an undergraduate degree from Livonia’s Madonna College, a private Catholic school, in 1987. While graduation from a Catholic institution does not necessarily mean that she is Catholic, her behavior suggests strong Christian background. Secular thinkers do not pray through moral and ethical decisions. If it is proper to conclude that her concern about the patient doctor relationship is rooted in the homosexual lifestyle of the two women, it seems highly likely that Catholic teaching of Christian principles for life figured in her choice. No reports consulted as background for this post ventured to say one way or the other.

The central issue appears to be whether a person of faith who engages in the normal Christian practice of praying about a decision is justified in acting on the guidance received that way. Can the culture permit people of faith to act on the guidance they receive through prayer? Or, must the culture suppress the free exercise of religion if it hurts someone’s feelings? The uproar surrounding this story makes it clear that some people believe that nobody has the right to do what Dr. Roi did. Some even appear to believe that there should be a law forbidding Dr. Roi to make such a choice.

While secular thinkers leap from Dr. Roi’s action to allegations of discrimination, that is a very simplistic reaction to the story. Dr. Roi is a person of faith who did what people of faith do. Christianity is not the only faith that turns to prayer for guidance in making decisions, but in the US, it is probably the most visible religion that considers prayer vital to faith. Dr. Roi prayed about her decision.

Since secular thinkers reject the existence of God, they have no use for decisions based on communion with God, but among Christians, this practice is, nevertheless, central to the faith. Sermons, books, seminars, devotional guides and discipleship mentors all teach Christians to pray when they do not know what to do in any situation. Dr. Roi demonstrated that she not only believes in prayer, but she also acts on prayer. Many is the Christian who has, on one occasion or another, expressed regret that, having prayed about a matter, he did not act according to the guidance received. Dr. Roi engaged in prayer according to the full definition of prayer; she asked for guidance, and she listened until she received it.

Dr. Roi is living her faith. That is exactly what the First Amendment to the Constitution is written to protect. The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To pray and to act on the guidance received is the free exercise of religion. American citizens all should applaud the fact that the Constitution is working exactly as it should in Dr. Roi’s case.

One more point. The two women who wanted Dr. Roi to care for a baby felt hurt by Dr. Roi’s decision. There is no question that such a thing would hurt anyone’s feelings. However, part of being an adult is learning to deal with hurt feelings. Hurt feelings do not justify tyrannizing a nation. In this case, not only are the hurt feelings not justification for tyranny, but there is also a completely satisfactory solution for the problem. Even though the two women do not get exactly what they wanted, they will get what they need. They were referred to a competent doctor, and their disappointment in not getting their first choice does not justify an attempt to deny free exercise of the faith of a citizen.

The important issue in this story is that citizens of the United States of America have the right to live their faith. If Dr. Roi had alleged that God told her to beat the women or kill the child they care for, nobody would believe that she was exercising her faith. It would be an exercise in madness. However, Dr. Roi simply listened to God in prayer and acted responsibly, not leaving the women without care for the baby but actually making a professional referral to a well-qualified colleague, something she is entitled to do for any reason whatsoever.

May God protect and sustain the freedom he has given each citizen in the USA. May it long remain the land of the free.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

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What is the difference between faithful conviction and discrimination?

Is your church on a mission to end the existence of all other churches?

You will probably answer a resounding NO to such a question. Then you will probably try to understand who would ask such a ridiculous question. It is a ridiculous question, but in the current cultural malaise it makes more sense than might seem reasonable at first glance.

Try this question. Is Barack Obama on a mission to end the existence of Christian schools at all levels? You might think that this is a ridiculous question, too. He has not even mentioned Christian schools in any recent speeches. He has been busy with ebola in Africa and ISIS in the Middle East. However, he recently signed an executive order that forbids federal contractors to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This order does not include a conscience exemption for anyone whose religion regards homosexuality or gender confusion as sin. Like so many other actions of the president, this one eludes easy examination. Most of us do not easily translate the legalese in such orders to simply human language. However, the fact that the president thought such an order was so urgent that he promulgated it even as the Congress was considering a similar order that would have included the exemption does raise the antenna of anyone watching for evidence that the executive branch of the government wants to shut down the free exercise of religion in the USA.

The order sounds relatively ordinary until one is made aware of another piece of news.

On August 5, 2014, Michael Zigarelli reported a most unusual situation. The president of Gordon College, a Christian college in the Boston area, recently signed a letter in which he exercised his right as a citizen to express his view on an action of the federal government. He joined others (the others who signed the letter are not named in this article) in a request that the executive order forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity be modified to include a conscience exemption for people whose religious convictions conflict with the order. The president of any institution is responsible to whatever board operates the institution, and if the board found this action unacceptable, it would not be news to hear that he suffered some consequence. However, the board that runs Gordon College has not expressed any concern about this letter. The concerns have been expressed by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. This Association is the accrediting authority for Gordon College. When this Association learned that Gordon College’s president had asked for this conscience exemption to be included in the executive order, the association pulled out Gordon College’s accreditation for formal review. Gordon College, a Christian college, could lose its accreditation because its president asked that the president of the United States include a conscience exemption in an executive order. How can this be?

There are many reasons for Christians to be very concerned about the possible consequences of the president’s executive order. It sets a precedent for federal action that could ripple out through many, many consequences. This issue with a college immediately calls to mind the fact that federal student loans are the most widely used plan for paying college costs. If an accreditation association can even consider pulling the accreditation of a college whose president merely asked for an accommodation on a very controversial executive order, what happens if the administrators of the federal student loan program declare that student loans may not be issued for colleges that ask for a conscience exemption in hiring. In other words, if a college refuses to hire a gay professor, because to do so is inconsistent with its statement of faith, will students no longer be able to attend and pay with federal money? Is a college that accepts federal student loan money therefore a contractor with the federal government? Does anyone know the answer to this question?

Is it possible that a college with religious scruples about hiring gays and transgenders could be denied the right to be paid with federal student aid? Is it really possible that a college with religious objections to hiring gays and transgenders could be refused accreditation for that reason when all other educational standards were met or exceeded? Is it possible that the LGBTQ agenda for social and political activism is about to overwhelm every corner of the country without any recourse for the people to who have religious convictions rooted in teachings as old as humankind?

This is a matter for serious prayer. Christians have no interest in hurting or diminishing people with sexual problems – homosexuality, gender confusion, adultery, or any other affliction. Christians, however, do have strong convictions about placing people with any of those problems, and an assortment of others, in positions of leadership anywhere. Christians do not want to spend their days in close proximity with people who are advocating these behaviors as if they were normal and desirable. Christians make this distinction with regard to advocacy much more than with regard to the behavior itself. If a pastoral candidate told the church’s call committee that he or she thought it was important to march in the streets for the right to adultery in open marriages, the church would almost certainly reject the candidate. If a pastoral candidate told the church’s call committee that a previous marriage failed, but a new marriage is more successful and the pastor has no desire to advocate divorce as a positive action, the church would almost certainly give the candidate an unbiased review. The same thing would likely be true with regard to a candidate for professorship in chemistry at a Christian college. It is unlikely the review board would probe the sexual orientation of the candidate unless the candidate compelled examination of the matter. If the candidate brought it up as an important issue, it would be easy to expect that the reviewers would reject the candidate simply because a professor of chemistry does not need to be putting his primary energy into advocacy for deviant behavior.

Christians must pray for wisdom, insight, and leadership with character. This nation was founded with deep respect for the religious convictions of people of all faiths. The balance between the prohibition of state religion and the assurance of the freedom for free exercise by private individuals has always redounded to the benefit of the nation as a whole. May the USA not be deluded by a call to suppress free exercise of faith by people who have faith, more than 90% of the people.

 

 

How Can Christians Avoid Rehabilitation by Government?

Just last week we all read with anxiety the report that in Oregon, the State Labor Commissioner is mulling a plan to “rehabilitate” business owners who refuse business in a way deemed discriminatory. The case that propelled this idea to the front pages is that of a Christian baker who refused the order of two lesbians planning a wedding. The Christian declared that his Christian principles forbade him to participate in sin. The Christian quoted the Bible as his basis for this decision. Every Christian knows that the Bible is a Christian’s guide for faith and life, because it is the revealed word of God. Every US Christian knows that the First Amendment protects Christians in the “free exercise” of their faith. Aaron Klein, the Christian baker, acted in full confidence that he was protected by the First Amendment when he exercised his faith, choosing to live by the teachings of his faith.

Apparently, in Oregon, the First Amendment to the US Constitution is unknown. If it were honored and upheld, the Kleins would not be facing fines and rehabilitation, actions commonly imposed on Christians in countries like China, Vietnam and Uzbekistan, but previously not imposed as penalties for the free exercise of religion in the USA. The notion of rehabilitating people who refuse to act against conscience is the direct consequence of the ongoing re-education of the citizens in the form of politically correct speech.

The Kleins should have known that they would be under a threat from the first time someone called the union of homosexuals a “gay marriage.” The word “marriage” has a definition, and the union of homosexuals is not it. For as long as there have been humans on earth, the definition of “marriage” is “the union of one man and one woman.” Because that is the definition, it isn’t possible to use the modifier “gay” with this word, because “gay” means “homosexual.” There can be no such thing as a homosexual marriage, and that means that there can be no such thing as a gay marriage. Homosexuals can engage in sexual activity, but that activity does not change the definition of marriage. Christians have made an effort to avoid using the term “gay marriage” simply because it is an oxymoron.

However, in the culture, shortly after homosexuals began telling Christians that they would be “on the wrong side of history” if they opposed “gay marriage,” LGBT activists introduced a new term in the glossary of political correctness: “marriage equality.” This term leaped right past the argument about whether there could even be such a thing as a “gay marriage,” and pretended that the argument about the definition of marriage was already over. Operating as if “marriage” could be anything somebody wanted it to be, LGBT activists proceeded to the argument that it wasn’t fair to deny legitimacy to gays who want to marry and be just like everybody else. It sounded a lot like my children begging to go to a movie I have forbidden because of its moral depravity. They cried, “But Mom, everybody else is going, and we won’t even know what they are talking about. It’s not fair!” The LGBT activists propounded exactly that argument: everybody else gets to be married and we want to be married, too.

For all their efforts to make the “everybody else” argument be about love and fairness, it should be noted that the masks came off when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had to recognize the union of two lesbians as a marriage, because somebody somewhere said it was so, and it wasn’t about love or fairness or any of that; it was about money. The argument then boils down to this: no matter what the majority of the citizens of the USA think, if anyone is married by anyone to anyone, the federal government is obligated to recognize the marriage and administer benefits – read “money” – accordingly.

This travesty of justice is rooted in the re-writing of the definitions of words we all thought we knew very well: “marriage” and “equality.” It turns out that in the secular mind, which dominates the culture and dominates government, people are free to redefine words whenever the current definition doesn’t feel good, and when the definition changes, laws which were written on the basis of the definition at the time suddenly mean something different.

Which leads back to the Kleins. The Kleins define marriage in a way that is perfectly legitimate according to their faith, and more to the point, they use a definition which was in place when they established their business and made their decisions about the way they would operate their business.  They, like many other people in the US, thought they knew what a marriage is, and when they included wedding cakes in their suite of baked products, they thought they knew what a wedding is, too. The fact that a few very aggressive political activists have promoted and sold an idea that has no legitimacy in reality does not change the moral foundations on which the Kleins make moral choices. They don’t need to be re-educated; the culture needs to be re-educated.

The Kleins are actually victims of a bigger problem than a law that interprets their actions as discrimination. Their problem is bigger than activist redefinition of words. The Kleins are victims of voter apathy. Poll after poll after poll shows that considerably more than 50% of the voters define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Poll after poll after poll shows that the concept of “gay marriage” and of “marriage equality” are unpalatable to most voters. Yet every time there is an election in which the voters can speak, the voters who oppose the LGBT agenda stay home in droves. When the voters who oppose the LGBT agenda simply go to the polls and vote, the LGBT agenda always loses.

History shows that when the LGBT agenda does lose, the activists simply become more active. The battle against LGBT activism and its constant assaults on morality is exhausting. Voters who want the definition of marriage to be left alone get tired of fighting the pressure. No matter the agenda, all activists rely on this truth about human nature to get what they want. They always have the energy of pent-up anger, the pitiful, plaintive cry that “it’s not fair,” and the willingness of a certain percentage of the population to believe that the loudest noise is the most righteous cause. Voters who want to retain the present status are accused of being old and thinking old and dragging the society down by their old-fashioned silly ideas.

Unfortunately, this battle will never end. In a football game, when the home team digs in on the five-yard line to prevent the opposing team from scoring, there is a clock. No matter how difficult it is to “hold that line,” the battle will end eventually. The same is not true of the battle for marriage. Those who want to protect marriage and preserve it as God ordained it are now destined always to be digging in on the five-yard line. Opponents of marriage have the bit in their teeth. They will not accept any defeat as final. No matter how often they lose at the ballot box or in court or in the public forum, they will not stop. Defenders of marriage as the union of a man and a woman must sign up for the long haul. Voters who are tire of being asked to vote about this and related issues must never assume that anybody else will even go to the polls. Every voter who supports marriage must consider the civic duty to vote as a sacred responsibility.

Christians want to live by their Christian principles, and Christians believe those principles must govern every thought, word and deed, at home, at church, in business and in the voting booth. If Christians truly want to be free to continue living by their principles instead of being rehabilitated, they must recognize that the blessing of citizenship in a representative republic creates an obligation of participation as a voter. The only hope of avoiding the institution of government rehabilitation or re-education or whatever euphemism the activist choose is to vote while that right still exists. Reject rehabilitation. Vote in every election.

If you didn’t vote the last time you had the opportunity, why not?

Tolerance is Not a Cure for Discrimination

What is the reason that the words tolerance and discrimination are so important in the culture of the US? You might think that it means we have a cruel, bigoted society, but this is not the reason. The reason is that whoever controls the speech increasingly controls the whole society. These words are used as battering rams to suppress the God-given liberty and rights of religion and free speech in this country.

The cultural mantra of our secular society is expressed in three words: diversity, tolerance and inclusion. Those words have been mounting in importance for many years, and they have shaped legislation focused on establishing civil rights. The concept of tolerance is expressed in legalese that includes heavy penalties for a failure to show tolerance. The term discrimination is no longer confined to actions that actually put someone at a disadvantage in society. Today, discrimination can be as simple as a failure to show positive affirmation of someone else. Even conditions and behaviors which conflict with the deeply-held religious convictions of some citizens are subject to be classified as bigoted discrimination in today’s culture. Political and social activism are aggressively working to enshrine each new cultural restriction into a legal requirement.

The list of diverse cultural expressions which must be tolerated grows longer and longer every day. Tolerance must be expressed in inclusion, and inclusion must be verbalized in affirming statements and language. The ostensible objective of tolerating diversity and inviting diverse social categories into our everyday associations with the use of affirming language should have produced a culture where the term “hate speech” would be an oxymoron. Yet the speech of public leaders such as Supreme Court justices, legislators and administration spokespersons is outrageous and deliberately abusive toward anyone with opposing views.

Why?

Because absorbing the political/social agenda items of diversity, tolerance and inclusion, and fervently expressing those concepts in politically correct speech, assuming anyone can even discern what the latest politically correct term is, does not transform anyone. Instead of transforming individuals into better people, focusing on an agenda whose success is measured by use of politically correct speech only fosters pharisaical judgment that is expressed as taking offense. The one who is most sensitive to the fine points of speech becomes the one who sets the standard for others.

Sadly, regulation of speech does not transform the human heart. People are quite capable of saying whatever is necessary while harboring the desire and will to demean others in their hearts.

It is sad to observe that in the quest to eliminate “discrimination” social and political activism have, in fact, nourished the very thing they sought to destroy. This outcome, of course, is the predictable result of heightening people’s sensitivity to differences and to speech about differences. The desired outcome is complete indifference to distinguishing characteristics as a basis for a lack of respect. The actual outcome is hair-splitting arguments over the very characteristics that should be ignored in social discourse.

Is there any way to cure the human propensity to discriminate against people who are different?

Yes. The cure is well-known, and it works every time. Transform the human heart to love every person the way God loves people. People who love God so much that they love people the way he does do not discriminate against anyone. They love and touch and serve the most unlovely individuals. They love and serve and touch people whose social status or economic condition or health problems or intellectual capacity inspire rejection or scorn or even abuse in unloving hearts.

There is one cure for the well-documented need of each human to feel superior to all the rest. Jesus expressed it in everything he said and did, but most succinctly when he was asked what God’s most important law is. Jesus, God in the flesh, answered that question by saying,

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “        Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

American culture teaches people to be sensitive to differences, and its lexicon is harshly enforced by activist leadership and a compliant media. The consequence of heightened sensitivity is that the enforcement of tolerance has become intolerant. Instead of making it easier for people to ignore their differences, heightened sensitivity not only spotlights the differences, but it also spotlights the language, resulting in as much aggression over the language as ever occurred over the differences themselves.

Jesus teaches people to love one another regardless of differences. The followers of Jesus don’t examine differences in a microscope in order to use the correct words. They study how to serve all people no matter how different they may be. They don’t need to review the approved vocabulary, because their words serve Christ, not a political agenda.

Jesus teaches something else that smooths the process of building relationships between people who are different from each other: forgiveness. The teaching of sensitivity in attempt to prevent discrimination creates a heightened sensitivity on the part of those who have been the targets of discrimination. Teaching those people to be more sensitive to the language of discrimination, even unintentional words or phrases, even words or phrases used long ago and now abandoned, only wallows in pain and suffering that are not even happening.

Jesus teaches that the targets of discrimination must forgive, and he teaches that they must forgive over and over. This teaching is embedded in the prayer he taught to his disciples:

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  Matthew 6:12 NIV

Knowing that people who were targeted for abuse would feel that the abusers were their enemies, Jesus went further. It is not enough just to forgive the enemy. Jesus taught that people who are abused must love, bless and pray for that enemy:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:43-44 NIV

Jesus did not teach people to be sensitive to the differences between themselves and other people. He did not teach people to use special language to express their sensitivity to those differences. He did not teach abused or persecuted people to assess the behavior and language used in their presence for its sensitivity to their special differences. Jesus taught everyone to ignore all those differences. He taught that each person must love God so much that the love simply overflows naturally to everyone around him. Jesus taught that when someone fails to love another person, the right response is not to call attention to the bad behavior and language; the right response is to forgive, to love that person and pray for him. Castigating the “enemy” on Facebook, or going on television to describe in detail the “hate speech” someone used does not promote healing and reconciliation among groups in society who have differences.

To love people, especially enemies, is very difficult. Some people think humans simply cannot do it. Jesus, who was completely human, demonstrated how to do it. In the end, he was not able to persuade his enemies to love him, but he never stopped loving them. As he was being nailed to the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them.” Luke 23:34 NIV People were driving nails into his hands and feet. The surrounding crowd was making fun of him. Jesus was a human being who suffered exactly as any other human would suffer. To love and forgive those people was no easier for Jesus than it is for anyone else, because he was a human being, too. Yet Jesus summoned up the strength and made the choice to forgive.

The society of the USA is troubled by a lot of old wounds. The people who live here are quite varied. There are ethnic differences, economic differences, intellectual differences, language differences, spiritual differences, and so forth. At the moment, the society, dominated by secular thinking, is trying to end the enmity and violence that erupts over the differences by making everyone more sensitive. Social activists promote sensitivity toward targets of discrimination, and the targets of discrimination promote greater sensitivity toward language and behavior from those who have discriminated. Heightened sensitivity is only making the problems worse.

Jesus taught people to love one another and to forgive wrongs. It is easy to show that when people learn to love one another they behave respectfully toward one another. It is also easy to show that when those who are wronged for any reason are able to summon up the strength to forgive those who wronged them, people can work toward healing and even become reconciled in loving relationships.

Increased awareness and heightened sensitivity do not promote tolerance. They actually increase the anger and violence in the culture. Jesus taught a better way to cure discrimination: love your neighbor and forgive his wrong-doing. There are undoubtedly people who think this idea won’t work, but it should probably be tried before it is rejected. Be the first in your neighborhood to advocate love and forgiveness as the strategy for ending discrimination.