It can seem easier to keep everyone happy by agreeing with the majority. We earn praise, or at least avoid trouble, when we’re on board with popular opinion. On the flip side, actually disagreeing, even politely, can draw all kinds of pressure to change our minds. Our peers may even go as far as to shun or ridicule us. Why not just support them? (Giving in would certainly make for a more comfortable path… but in some situations, our faith and our conscience just cannot bend.)
Today, many people want to redefine marriage, while others seek to remove stigma from adultery and fornication. Most of the arguments in favor of these changes are founded on emotions rather than on truth. When faced with a room full of people who all agree that a certain sin or disordered life choice is permissible, it can be difficult to stay true to your faith without feeling attacked or as if you offended someone. The Church Herself is attacked for what she teaches, but, as Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said, “there are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” But how are we to stand this kind of opposition?
Love is always the appropriate response. However, even love gets confused under the increasing pressure to approve of immorality.. You can love someone without approving of his choices or views. It’s a truer form of love when you want the truth for someone instead of just approval. Holding unpopular beliefs is definitely not the easiest thing to do, but being a follower of Jesus Christ has never been easy. Social media may be a relatively new context for disagreements and polarization, but the world of the Bible is not without comparable strife. Looking back on the stories of the Bible is a helpful way to seek wisdom when facing a difficult situation in which you are having trouble seeing eye to eye with someone.
Here are five examples from the Word of God to help you love others without compromising your Catholic faith:
And, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” … But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:25-37
You probably guessed this would be on the list, but do not overlook it just because it’s a common parable. The Good Samaritan exemplifies how to treat strangers without in spite of their political, religious, or other affiliations. A true example of brotherly love, the Samaritan went above and beyond by not only saving the traveler, but providing for all of his needs. It’s mind-blowing generosity, and that’s what Christianity is – a mind-blowing concept of believing in love and acting upon it unconditionally. Christians are called to do outdo others in love, generosity, and service to all people; not to simply to just be nice to those we like.
The Good Samaritan is our model of how to love strangers. You don’t need to know people’s lifestyle, background or even their name to give them water if they are thirsty, or a coat if they are cold. (For further reflection, visit Matthew 25:40-45 or Luke 10:25-37 for the parable.)
“ I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” – Luke 15: 11-32
This is another well-known parable, but what does it have to do with loving others with different beliefs? Jesus speaks of the father’s reaction to his son coming home. The son may have squandered money and acted recklessly, but upon his return home, he was still loved – even more so. Just as the father did with his younger son, look on others with love, especially upon their return. People may make life decisions that separate you from them either by choice or circumstance. Continue to pray for them, and always rejoice upon their return.
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14
Imagine being a Jew married to Persian whose Right-Hand Man was enslaving and torturing your own people. How would you love your spouse? How could you love anyone in that situation? It was Esther’s wisdom, love and courage that saved the Jewish people. Have you ever found yourself in a room full of new acquaintances who don’t know you are Catholic? An inappropriate joke at the Church’s expense, a game that you know you shouldn’t participate in, or a late night plan that will keep you up too late for Mass the next morning occurs, and you are forced to stand for your beliefs or join in the fun.
It can be difficult to refrain from the activity, yet remember to speak with love and not condemn when you explain your reasons why you can’t join in. Simply lead by example. Just as Esther stood before the King, your courage reveals truth to your companions. Because of your friendship, they may even reconsider their own choices. This may also occur if you have a friend who’s running with the wrong crowd: Be responsible for your faith and take courage. If your love is met with rebuke, take solace in the fact that you did your best and may be better off without these negative influences in your life.
“Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today.So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Genesis 50:18-21
Joseph’s story exemplifies how to love unconditionally and respond with generosity towards those who have mistreated you. His brothers abandoned him and left him for dead, but when Joseph had the power to repay them for their evil doings, he chose to act with mercy and forgiveness. A trite example in our own lives might be offering to buy lunch for a rude co-worker who has forgotten theirs or helping out the person who has always kicked you when you are down. The opportunities to be Christ like to those who have offended us are seemingly endless. Joseph didn’t condemn his brothers nor should you condemn others for their wrongs against you. Looking at the goodness God drew out of his sufferings, Joseph forgave his brothers and loved them deeply.
“And Jesus said: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ ” Luke 23:24
Jesus’ agony in the garden speaks wonders to love’s strength and endurance, while also showing the companionship of Christ in agonizing situations. His scourging at the pillar demonstrates His companionship during the times in your life when you are persecuted for what you believe. I’ve often been told never to look at the Crucifixion without also thinking of the Resurrection. God came down as man and loved the whole world, even as the world crucified Him. He forgave, even as He died for their sake and by their hands. There is no greater love than this.
“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – ISAIAH 53:5
People can be unforgiving, but as Christians our forgiveness is not conditional. When you forgive and act with love towards those who have opposing beliefs, you are showing love in a radical way. As Christians, we are called to love others through any amount of difficulty, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what their religious background is. No matter what others say or believe, remember that the faith will live on because Truth himself rose from the dead. With that reassurance, continue to love, even those who oppose you.
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