The people's voice of reason

On Being Gracious To Those Who Differ

I heard about a presumably wealthy Texas cattle ranch owner who boasted about his holdings. When asked how he got such a big ranch, he replied that he bought up a bunch of smaller ranches and made them into one bigger ranch. He said he kept the names and made the new ranch a composite of them all. Thus he owned the "Lazy J Rolling S Mighty Texas Bar Seven Triple L Buffalo Nickel" cattle ranch.

"Well, how many head of cattle do you own?" his friend asked.

"Only seven," he replied. "I had a lot more but most of 'em didn't survive the branding!"

I often remember this story as we approach football season and see how some fans take something that's supposed to be fun and turn it into a shouting match with friends and acquaintances. One friend told me they had an "Alabama/Auburn" night at their summer revival and it turned into a disaster! Apparently people focused on the red and orange more than they focused on saving souls.

One pastor customarily cautioned people on the Sunday before the Iron Bowl to be kind to one another on the Sunday following. It would seem this would be unnecessary to say, but I've followed suit and usually say this myself come November.

This fall is fraught with another peril since it's election season. Candidates on both sides have said regrettable things, and some who support them have said some regrettable things, too. I just returned from a political items collectors convention where my conservatism was a target of some barbed comments, so I had to simply smile sweetly and press on.

I suppose the world will always be full of conflict, but it's very regrettable when this kind of division creeps into the church.

We lived in another county years ago. A local church, St. John's Baptist Church, got unwanted publicity when several public brawls broke out in the congregation and were reported in the local press. A new pastor came who chided his people somewhat sternly that if they were named for the Apostle John, the apostle of love, they must live like it.

John wrote, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death" (1 John 3: 14).

And John recorded the lord of the church himself who said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15: 12).

Everyone has their football favorites and a political party they support. This is America and we have freedom to do so. But let's remember we're Americans first. And Christians most of all.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., and adjunct instructor of speech at Jefferson State Community College, Hoover. Permission is granted to use this material with attribution.


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