Standing up for Christ requires words tempered by love

By: By Sharon Perkins

EDITOR’S NOTE: Father Dominic Garramone’s computer crashed earlier this week, taking with it the Scripture column he had written for this issue of The Catholic Post. To help him out, we offer the following column from Catholic News Service called “Word to Life,” which is produced in cooperation with the North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 27
1 Kings 19:16b,19-21; Psalm 16:1-2,5,7-8,9-10,11; Galatians 5:1,13-18; Luke 9:51-62

If I wish to find a place where — to use St. Paul’s words to the Galatians — Christians are “biting and devouring one another,” I need look no farther than 18 inches away. That’s about the distance between my eyes and my computer screen.

That’s also where many well-meaning and faith-filled Christians engage one another in debate and commentary, sometimes arguing their positions so passionately that they forget with whom they are arguing. Using their online freedom as an “opportunity for the flesh” (as St. Paul would describe it), they all too readily attempt to consume their debate opponents by denigrating them.

If you don’t believe me, check out both the offensive and defensive comments posted after online articles, blogs or on Facebook where there is a controversial religious or political issue at stake. Christians who would never dream of speaking such words in a fellow believer’s presence often think nothing of doing so publicly on the Internet and arousing emotional responses in kind.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 9:54), Jesus rebuked his disciples for just such a response after they asked to “call down fire from heaven” to consume the Samaritans who refused to welcome Jesus because of his obviously Jewish pilgrimage destination. Rather than thanking them for defending his honor, Jesus saw that this sort of ethnic and religious dissension did nothing to further the proclamation of the reign of God.

A Christian’s understanding of what he or she believes and the willingness to defend the Gospel of Christ are certainly crucial, especially in times of darkness and ignorance. But St. Paul reminds us that we are to “serve one another through love” even as we stand up for Christ.

The Christian path is neither simple adherence to an ideology nor is it a mere feeling of devotion. It is surrender to the person of Jesus and faithfulness to his call to love unselfishly.

In situations of dispute or disagreement, this sometimes means asking ourselves whether we are representing him or merely our own preferences and prejudices. It requires a careful consideration of yet another distance of 18 inches — that between the mind and the heart.

This week consider: Is there an issue of faith or morality about which you feel particularly passionate? How can you invite conversion of mind and heart so that you can be a witness of Christ’s peace and not simply a voice of dissension?

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