Awhile back, I was talking with a soldier who was having some difficulties at work. During the conversation, he mentioned several times he wasn’t willing to put up with injustice and wasn’t afraid to challenge unfairness wherever it occurred.


That impulse has some merit if the focus is on unfairness toward other people. Standing up for others can be a noble thing– but even then, some discretion is wise. Good intentions don’t guarantee good results. Some things just aren’t worth fighting for.

Shift the focus to oneself though, turn the spotlight all the way up, and a “don’t tread on me” attitude can eventually becomes poisonous– destructive of community, both small and large. That’s because friendship, marriage, family, church, and beyond depend upon a willingness to absorb the inevitable inequities of human relationships. As Paul would say, “why not suffer wrong?”

Despite popular impulses to the contrary, turning the other cheek and going the extra mile are necessary lubricants that keep civilization running smoothly. Authentic community requires its participants to set aside personal autonomy for the sake of relationships.

And there are no exceptions. Self-emptying is always a prerequisite to genuine fellowship. In Christ, God Himself set aside His divine prerogatives to obtain “common-unity” with humanity. And He gave the church that same example.

3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:3-11 (ESV)

Back to the soldier… A willingness to bear with injustice and unfairness for the sake of common bonds is a counter-cultural ground for courtesy and for respect. Theoretically, everyone deserves consideration because everyone bears the burden of slights and insults for the greater good. Those who aren’t interested in bearing that burden– like the soldier I mentioned– can be sources of continual conflict. Those who are willing to shoulder that load are peacemakers and the salt of the earth.


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