Jonathan and Cameron are brothers. Jonathan is the oldest. These men have grown up in a Christian home. Their parents were wonderful people who raised their sons to read the Bible, go to church, and adhere to a biblically based moral code of ethics.
However the influences they were exposed to in their church and the home emphasized the evil in the world most of the time. Conversations always seemed to gravitate to whatís wrong with other people instead of whatís right. They were ďglass half emptyĒ type of people. They are good people skewed to negativism. When you grow up in a home and go to a church where the darkness in us all is the primary focus it produces critical perspectives. People are generally always bad. People are basically evil at heart so you are skeptical of all people and must protect yourself. Ironically, this worldview does not include the same view of oneself. When we cultivate this view of others we end up thinking of ourselves as more honorable, less evil, and more virtuous than others.
Jonathan and Cameron rarely see each other, but when they do, they rehearse old times, venerate their wonderful parents, and enjoy family memories. But their time together replays old mental notes and they respond to each other as they have become accustomed. Jonathan starts with deriding comments about Cameronís appearance. Jonathan does it all so unconsciously and doesnít see any harm Ö itís just how he sees his brother.
Jonathanís words actually bring up old angry feelings and wounds. So Cameron thinks up some personal comments that have little barbs in response. He thinks, maybe if I inflict the same feeling he gives me it will cause him to stop and think. A poor means of communicating, but methods well learned from childhood. So their time together escalates in word barbs or bombs until a confrontation ensues and they leave each otherís company with bad feelings.
Why does Jonathan see his brother in a way that causes him to use hurtful adjectives? Why does Cameron respond with reciprocating cuts? Why can they not see each other as privileged brothers who are blessed by each other and offer words of complement and commendation? Why do they see only the bad, the ugly, and the hurtful side? These are men who profess to be Christ followers. How can they say they love God, who they cannot see, when they cannot love each other? Isnít this Christianity 101?
Translate this family feud to the bigger world of strangers who Jonathan and Cameron meet everyday. They are people not trustworthy, filled with evil motives, who are deeply flawed, out to hurt them. They live with a BEWARE template that precludes every encounter, every exchange, and every relationship.
The way out of this hurtful mindset is the way to a life of blessing, not cursing of others. It is embarking on everyday filled with opportunities to bless beautiful people. It is a new way to see people. It is the way of love. Jesus taught us this by his own life. Jesus tells us he will give us the power to change our worldview. We can change old patterns of behavior. It starts in my heart and at home. Jesus teaches us that it is possible to love those who hurt us. We can return good for evil. We can make the world a better place.
Pray this prayer with me: God give me a new heart and new eyes to see the world as you see it. To see people, not critically, but kindly, and be quick to praise, complement, and encourage. Amen.
Dr. Barry Carpenter is pastor of Destin United Methodist Church and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.