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I talk to a lot of people, some of whom disagree with my beliefs and points of view.  And that's okay; we aren't all going to agree on everything all the time.  But, here's the real issue.  When people disagree, much of the time they do so without regard to any other point of view.  If something doesn't match what they believe, they simply disregard it.  And what's worse, some don't even know why; all they know is it's different than what they are used to.  This can be dangerous because this leads to judging according to our understanding of God's word rather than the word itself.  For example, once someone disagreed with a message I had written and quoted a couple of scriptures to make their point.  However, when they took a second look at them, they apparently realized that the passages they had quoted actually agreed with what I had said... so they deleted them.  In its place, they gave an explanation for their disagreement which was, and I quote, "It's complicated."  This is disingenuous at best, and willful ignorance at worst.  They saw that what I had written was scripturally sound, but they were too stubborn to consider a point of view different than what they were used to.  Don't become unteachable.  Don't become so closed off that you refuse to consider other points of view.  Remember, Israel become unteachable and God had to deal with them harshly because of it.  (See Isaiah 65)  Proverbs 12:15 (NIV) The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

In my walk through life, I've encountered those who, for one reason or another, always choose to see me in a negative light.  If they saw anything good in me, they would ignore it, or try to turn it into something negative.  Some even watched intently looking for reasons to accuse me, or to ridicule me.  Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is quickly becoming the norm for many, and we are abandoning time tested principles which promote peace and civility with one another.  Many feel justified in doing so since they believe they are standing for what is right, or that their side is the good side.  But we shouldn't be standing for what is right by doing what is wrong.  Don't follow those trying to lead you down this road -- choose better character.  If you wouldn't like someone doing it to you, then don't do it to someone else.  See people through God's eyes; we are all fearfully and wonderfully made -- made in the image of God no less.  Choose to judge rightly, and righteously, rather than according to an agenda.  The more angry and the more hardened we become, the less likely we will be able to see objectively, and the more likely we'll be harmed personally.  Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

As Christians, we tend to place a lot of emphasis on sin and adhering to certain accepted standards we believe define us as Christians.  However, too often, issues of character go unaddressed.  Some may believe sin and character issues are one in the same, but this isn't necessarily so.  For example, we could be a complete and total jerk, yet not commit a sin.  We could be rude, antagonistic, treat others with disregard, or be careless in the things we speak or do, and still never technically commit a sin.  In fact, some make liberal use of this believing it to be a kind of loophole for behaving badly, yet we still don't hear much about being a person of character.  Sin or not, these things and more aren't pleasing to God.  Not only that, but they will surely have a negative impact on us, our lives, and the world around us, even if we don't see the connection.  There are so many in the world who don't believe character matters, who believe they are somehow justified in doing whatever they choose, or who believe that the ends justify the means.  Don't take part in this.  Choose a better standard; have a spirit of excellence rather than merely trying to sidestep sin.  Be a blessing to God and to others by choosing to exemplify the character of God in your life.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

Have you ever noticed how some people love giving advice?  I've personally encountered some who were so desperate to speak they literally could not wait for me to finish a single sentence before they began telling me all the things I should be doing.  But how can anyone speak to our situations in a beneficial manner without knowing the details of our situation, or without having the wisdom or experience to do so?  The answer is, they can't, and we should be careful with what they have to say.  We are flush with cheap advice and trite, feel-good sayings -- things that people didn't have to pay a price to obtain.  But true wisdom, and true understanding gained by experience is not always so easy to come by.  Be wise, and be discerning -- not everyone who dispenses advice has the depth of knowledge, or the clarity of sight to do so.  Remember, should we choose to follow their advice, it will be us who bears the consequences for doing so, not them.  And before you seek guidance from anyone else, seek it from God first.  May God bless you with the discernment to know what is right and what is wrong, and the wisdom to know what to receive and what to reject.  James 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Putting aside the social and political issues many find themselves embroiled in today, have you taken a moment to recognize that we generally enjoy a moderate level of peace and civility in society?  And if you can't see that, then isn't this something you would want, and would enjoy?  Unfortunately, many have either forgotten, or they haven't taken the time to see, that peace and civility don't come about by chance... they come at a price.  They come by people -- all of us -- choosing to be civil, moral and just.  There are those who are determined to lead us down a road of strife and hatred few of us have seen the results of.  If we follow, our world is going to change, and not for the better.  The peace and civility we have enjoyed will go away, and we will reap the terrible and unforeseen consequences of our actions.  Stop lashing out at others believing you are somehow justified in doing so.  Stop vilifying others, lying about others, and assuming the worst of them.  And stop allowing people to stir up strife and anger within you.  We are more alike than we are different.  Choose to have respect for your fellow man regardless of whether you agree or disagree with them; the state of our households, our communities, and our country depends on it.  Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV) 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, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.


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