During the Christmas holiday I find myself reflecting on the birth and teachings of Jesus and what it means to be Christian. I don’t usually wear my religion on my sleeve or discuss it publicly, as I consider it a private and personal relationship.
But on this one occasion, please allow me to share my personal thoughts.
Through my upbringing in the Catholic Church and several years in Catholic school, I gained a pretty good understanding of the path Jesus wants us to take and the way he instructed us, through his disciples, to treat others.
Recently I joined the Methodist Church so I could worship with my husband.
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The atmosphere in the church is so inviting. The pastor adapts the Gospel readings to be meaningful and instructive to our lives in the here and now and guides us on how to live our lives in a manner consistent with Jesus’ teachings.
For the past two decades, a good portion of my life has been spent in the political arena, first in the state Legislature and now as a political columnist and commentator.
To do this, I watch a lot of news, read many papers and am active on social media.
In short, I’m immersed in it, and it’s starting to take a toll.
Never have I seen the degree of anger, hatred, bigotry and intolerance so freely spewed and cheered.
It’s becoming difficult to watch what is going on at the national level and understand how it fits in with Christian values. Through the Bible, we learn that Jesus taught us love, tolerance and forgiveness and instructed us not to judge others.
In Galatians 5:13-15 we were warned: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful state; rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
What we witness in the current political climate is an absence of love and a strong current of hatred and anger. Why is that? Have we forgotten our church’s teachings?
That message is reinforced numerous times throughout the Bible. In Mark 12:31: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.”
Why do candidates who profess to be good Christians place winning an election above following their Christian principles?
What message does that send?
Doesn’t it give license to others to act on their worst instincts?
True leaders should strive to unite people, not stoke their fears and prejudices.
The Bible speaks to this as well in Luke 6:36-38: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.”
Why, then, are we as Christians ignoring these teachings, particularly at Christmas time? Christmas should be a time of real joy and gladness. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
As a religious holiday — or holy day — we are touched by the miraculous birth of the Christ child, a reminder that God sent us the most precious gift, his son, our savior Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins.
What greater gift can we give on Christmas than to recommit ourselves to the basic tenets of the Christian faith: to love one another, to forgive others as God has forgiven us and to refrain from judging others lest we be judged?
To all my Christian friends, I wish you a Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year. To those practicing another religion or no religion, I wish you happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
And my wish for our country is that in the new year we treat each other with respect and tolerance, that we can disagree without being disagreeable, that we find a way to get rid of the anger and hatred and that we work together for the betterment of our country.
Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland.