Paul writes in Titus 3:2, "Believers shouldn't curse anyone or be quarrelsome, but they should be gentle and show courtesy to everyone."
And then Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:17, "Treat everyone you meet with dignity."
I would suggest that this would include both believers and non-believers - and the differences of opinion we have on the issues both inside and outside the church.
Did you know the Christians of both the first and second century were known for this? And as a result - the world noticed and revival took place?
Let me explain.
The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, which was written around the second century, was one of the first (if not the first) Christian apologetic writings - and was written to a philosopher by the name of Diognetus.
In describing the Christians of that time, he writes, "We shall share our table with all, but we shall not share our bed with all."
That is such a powerful statement, mainly because the meaning can be defined in different layers.
Here are two:
Layer number one: Have convictions (beliefs) and hold to them - for in doing so the world will notice and God will move hearts.
You and I both know that much of our faith, beliefs and practices are in total opposition to the culture of the world we live in - and that was especially true in the first and second century.
The church then had radically different views of sex, work and death than other people that they lived with at that time.
For example, pagan were amazed at the Christians' attitude toward death. While many Christians were being taken to their executions - they could be heard joyously singing hymns and expressing thanksgiving to God.
They were not afraid of death (You talk about a great testimony!)
And the differences were especially true in the attitudes of Christians toward sex and money and the attitude of the world at that time.
Pagans would not share their money. To them, money was sacred.
Sex on the other hand was experienced without restraint or any moral consistency. They were very liberal in their approach toward sexuality toward one another.
The sexual practices of that day (as one author writes) would, "make even most Americans blush."
For Christians, however, they guarded and cared for their sexuality. It was to be experienced only in the covenant relationship of marriage (and between a man and a woman).
But with money, Christians were giving feely all over the place.
Charity was given to the poor. When disease and plagues broke out, it was the Christians who stayed and cared for the poor.
And Mathetes writes (concerning the early Christians): "We shall share our table with all but we shall not share our bed with all," he is saying our values are different. We are going to hold to what we believe in - and even though pagans may laugh at us about our attitudes toward sex, money and death - we will stand fast with our biblical values."
In the end, Christianity swept throughout the Roman empire with revival.
That's why I encourage you to hold on to your values - for in the end - God will move.
Layer number two:
In holding on to your beliefs, ideals and opinions, treat everyone who differs with you - with respect - no matter how serious the issue.
For while we might not share our bed with all (our values with all - our beliefs) - we can treat one another with dignity. We can share a common table.
We can have interactions with one another. We can have dialogue with one another.
We can be friendly with one another.
We don't need to attack one another.
We can treat one another with dignity and respect.
I might not agree with pagan Phil (or even another Christian with different social values), but I can go out and have a hamburger and coke with him- and treat them with the kindness and respect that God calls for.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.