We have all at one point or another experienced the misjudgments and sometimes even hate of another person. As a woman in the ministry, I have experienced quite a bit of it. One of those times, happened to be while I was still in my last year of seminary and I was doing supply preaching on the weekends. A church in Lebanon CT, called on me to fill in for their pastor. The church was a Conservative Congregational Christian Church. I knew almost nothing about their practices as Christians or Congregationalists. But I was always willing to help out a community in need.
This community was a little unusual when it came to supply preaching. They wanted to meet me before I preached for them. So I drove over to the next town to meet with their head deacon. They gave me a tour of their little church and church school. It was a small little church located in a very rural area. It was cute. Then we sat down to talk and after about an hour the true purpose of that meeting came out. I am a woman and he wanted to make sure that I understood that Paul prohibited women from doing what I was doing and that if I preached for them, they would tolerate it, but I could not dirty their pulpit by entering it. And then he quoted some scriptures at me.
I was appalled at the judgment I was receiving in those moments. I was angered by the implication that I was somehow lesser because I was a woman and that he used the scriptures to back up the prejudice that he harbored. So I quoted scripture of the opposite effect to him and told him that they would have to find another preacher for that Sunday.
Paul spent his time writing and preaching to a whole world that was filled with such prejudice and judgments of all peoples and especially those who were considered to be different. He preached against judgment and towards connectedness and love. He preached Christ’s love as an example that we should be striving to better understand and live up to. If we were to all live into the love of Christ then we could begin to see each other as children of God, unique in our differences and wonderful. This is the true antidote to the hate that sometimes takes hold in our world. Paul does not preach about uniformity in the believer, church, or lay out who God gives certain gifts to.
In the early church, there were more differences between Christian communities than there are today. Differences between people of faith and communities were generally embraced and encouraged in the beginning. Paul encouraged people to live their lives by the Christian tenants of lowliness: meaning without pride and haughtiness, and meekness: meaning without forcing one’s self on others. He encouraged patience with one another and humanity. He encouraged these tenants because he understood that without unity, without a healthy relationship, there would be impairment of what a community could do in the name of Christ.
I fear that there is a loss of patience with one another in our world, there is often a lack of compassion, and many people live without meekness. This is what leads to the judgments and hate that sometimes takes hold in our world especially with those who are different than us, those we do not understand. Hate causes pain, resentment, and breaks apart humanity relationships and unity. If we want to experience the promised peace of God then we need to work towards that peace. We need to be evaluating how we handle one another in life. We need to approach one another with love and patience. Joan Chittister, a 21st century Benedictine nun, says “In community we work out our connectedness to God, to one another, and to ourselves. It is in community where we find out who we really are … It is easy to talk about the love of God; it is another thing to practice it”.
We are called to a new and different way of life when we come to faith. We are called to live not only with faith but with patience, care, and compassion. We are called to lay aside all of our judgments of others in favor of living peaceably together as a community. We are called to recognize that God is loving, forgiving, and has created everyone and everything with its unique purpose. We are called to honor and accept those differences so there can be unity in the peace of Christ.
Paul wrote, “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. All people are valuable and I believe that the key to stopping hate in our world is to view all people as Christ would, unique and gifted individuals, created by God for a purpose. So let us work towards stronger faith and peace in life and in our world by viewing one another through compassionate eyes of love, let’s place aside our judgments and our own prejudices in favor and God’s word of life. These are our challenges for today; this is our calling as Christians to a world that is in need.
 Joan Chittister, 21st Century Benedictine Nun.
 Ephesians 4: 11-13, RSV.
(Based on Ephesians 4: 1-16)