Tag Archives: offense

Overcoming Adversaries

The kids were naive. They didn’t understand how their joking could hurt my son. Calling him names that highlighted a post-surgery physical challenge had become a past time for them until he mentioned it to me. I addressed it immediately with their parents. The name-calling never happened again and thankfully my son’s physical challenge resolved after five months, after the healing of the surgery was complete.

Lots of hugs and prayers helped him acknowledge the hurt but not be overtaken by it. My husband and I embraced the opportunity to instruct our son how to forgive and not identify with “labels”. That was only part of the work. We also needed to forgive these kids, who would continue to be a regular part of our lives. My son’s experience made me reflect on my own childhood and being called names like “Oreo girl” by my black friends or having a white teacher ask me if I put toothpaste in my hair to make it so shiny. Unfortunately, a few times I used my hurt to wound others. Calling them names made me feel strong. Whether we have been the victim or we are the reformed bully, God has healing and restoration for each of us.

Honestly and vulnerability can heal families and communities. We should acknowledge how our own opinions, habits, and words have hurt someone but we realized it and changed; how a challenge suppressed us but we rose up and out from it; how life tested us, but we overcame. We must find moments of victory or overcoming that can be used to encourage someone else. We must humbly acknowledge a time or an instance where “we were the problem” and consider the process through which we became so self-aware, that we allowed someone else or divine power to change our hearts and minds.

We must believe that God is good and wants good for all people, even those that we call evil. He doesn’t want to bless their evil intentions and works, but he wants to endow them with the ability to know right from wrong and to discern light from darkness. He ultimately wants them to have a story to share that will bring life to those around them. This is why Jesus told his disciples to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44)

Sometimes conflict with someone continues so long that we believe God doesn’t hear us or can’t change our oppressors. Maybe we are hurting so much that we just don’t have the compassion to pray for them. If we can envision Him hugging us or weeping with us and if we recall our own failures, our graciousness will arise.

Robert Frost wrote these words in the poem “The Star Splitter”,
If one by one we counted people out
For the least sin,
it wouldn’t take us long
To get so we had no one left to live with.
For to be social is to be forgiving.’ 

“Lord, we try to escape pain, but we can’t. We hope that those who love us will never wound us, but they will. Unfortunately, at some time we will also hurt someone willfully or by mistake. Have your Spirit tend to our wounds and humble our hearts. Move us to forgive our adversaries and ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respect the Rules of My House

stock-vector-vector-illustration-of-male-neighbors-talking-over-fence-133161437Most mornings I do a quick perusal of my Facebook Newsfeed. I came across an article that made my heart ache a couple of weeks ago. I ended up taking a few minutes to jot down some thoughts in a quick post. This “quick post” has gotten pretty high approval ratings Lol and I’ve decided to delve more deeply into the societal issues that were on my heart when I wrote the first post. Here is a lengthier, more controversial, but heartfelt cry to those who don’t want to respect the rules of my “houses”.

Whether it is the obliteration of the possibility of offense or the idolatry of sensitivity, we’ve seen a lot of attack on traditional faith values, particularly when it comes to the hot button topic of gender issues. This traditional value crosses religious lines. When it comes to this one issue, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have common agreement. It’s true that in Christianity, some denominations are splitting over this issue and they have the right to do so. Those who follow a traditional reading of Scripture disagree with the view that scripture evolves or is dictated by ever-changing culture.  Islam is not without it’s inner debates. Some conservative Western born Muslim women disagree with the traditional Islamic view of women and children as being inferior to men. The differences need to be respected, not suppressed or banned.  Right now there is pressure for churches and individuals to not teach or share their faith values because what they believe may offend someone else. In some cases, it’s being touted as hate speech or at the very least…a phobia. Tolerance, one of the gods of the early 2000s has lost it’s luster for a more sinister god, that in my view, lacks basic common sense. Instead of tolerance, society is being duped by the doctrine of compliance.

In other words, there is a segment of society that wants me to change my house rules to comply with their worldview. Right now the attack has begun with houses of faith and houses of self-enterprise. I pray the day never comes when the attack comes to your personal house or mine. Why, oh why can these various “houses” just be respected for having different worldviews and left alone? Let’s be neighbors and respect each other’s individual intellectual property when it comes to belief and speech. I learned the importance of this at a very young age as a young black girl living in a mostly white suburb.

When I was young, we lived in a community with a mixture of Jewish people, Catholics, and Protestants. It was okay to acknowledge the differences and not be insulted or offended. I learned that my 4th grade buddy Jonathan’s family ate matzah and didn’t believe Jesus was God. His mom let me try matzah. I didn’t like it. He invited me to his birthday party at the Jewish Community Center. I was the only black person. Despite feeling a little overwhelmed by the cultural differences, I was ok. Jonathan and his family liked me. We played together almost daily, trying to figure out how to sell our “furniture” that was made from sticks and Ohio buckeyes. No one back then got afraid, indignant or nervous that one of us was going to proselytize the other. My few Catholic friends also had some different beliefs. I went to a mass once and decided at eleven that I liked my faith better. My friend wasn’t offended. It was normal to respect differences of opinion. It was fine for each of my friends to think “our” way was the best and not be offended or feel discriminated against. I’d never expect Jonathan’s mom to serve me ham, just because I like ham. When in each other’s houses, Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant, we knew to respect “house rules” even if we didn’t participate or personally agree with them. We never got offended and thought that the “house rules” were discriminatory towards us. It was our choice to go to that friend’s house or not. 
I miss that era. If people come to my house, house of faith, the business I own etc, they should respect me and the “rules” of my houses. It’s their choice to come or not. We can still be friends even if we don’t agree with the tenets the other’s faith, lifestyle decisions, or worldviews. We can do what my friends and I did as kids: know there are differences and not be offended by them. We don’t have to take their differences of opinion as an affront to our well-being. I had one childhood friend whose “house rules” were uncomfortable to me. Therefore I didn’t go into her house. We played outside.
I hope in this present era that my house, your house, our individual houses of faith, self-employment venues etc will be respected for their “house rules”: tenets, beliefs, worldviews. I don’t like the taste of matzah, You may not believe that Jesus is God. There’s no reason for offense to be taken, just understanding to be offered.

Do you remember the adage that you learned as a child, “Respect your neighbor’s property”? My parents instilled in us an understanding that while we share a neighborhood, each property line distinguishes boundaries of ownership. My small four street neighborhood right outside of Shaker Heights, Ohio had a block party one summer. It was a wonderful experience! I remember zooming down the street on my bicycle with kids that I knew and some that I’d never met before. We shared food and fun. However, an unspoken rule remained as I looked around. No one, but no one stepped onto the lawn or driveway of another property owner. We stayed in the street, the area that belonged to us all. I was impressed.

If a person goes into a house of faith, whatever the spiritual tradition, there is an unspoken rule, or understanding, that you now comply with or respect the “rules” of that house. I can’t enter a mosque and expect to be served Holy Communion. I can’t go into a Muslim country as a woman and expect them to let me roam freely without a burka. That would be rude.

Private businesses, schools, churches and homes reflect the values of their founders or owners. None of us wants someone else to come into our home or business and tell us that we have to never eat peanut butter because someone with a severe nut allergy may come over.

No civil authority has the right to censor religious doctrine or individual speech. There is a divine boundary line between state and individual. What is deemed private should never be violated by the ever-changing court of public opinion.  We have a divine gift to believe what ever we perceive is Truth. Our lives reflect this Truth each day in our lifestyles and words. No state or law has the right to make us comply with something different. Traditional faith values as well as other worldviews deserve mutual respect. We do not have to agree with each other’s “house rules” in order to live as neighbors.

.

neighbors Leslie Oshana and Marilynn Taylor(glasses) talking outside their homes.