Saturday Sermon: 'A person's a person, no matter how small'
Many years ago, I was on my high school wrestling team. I remember one meet in particular, when one of the boys lost his match. He was a good wrestler and usually won, but this time he didn't.
This made him angry, and after walking off the mat, he kicked a chair sending it flying with a loud crash. Our coach ran over to him, got in his face and really chewed him out for unsportsmanlike behavior. He was barred from competing in the next meet.
I haven't attended many sports events in Victoria recently, but what I know of the young people today, I have every reason to believe that the vast majority of them are exemplary young men and women on and off the field, mat, court or course.
There are always exceptions, of course, but in general, their behavior is not the cause for my concern. I am more concerned with the behavior of the adults in our society.
It seems to me that the ability to lose gracefully, to win gracefully and to treat those with whom we disagree with honor and respect is becoming a lost art.
To the contrary, I find a lack of tolerance, an unwillingness to compromise or to just be civil with our opponents at any level has become a badge of honor.
"See how extreme I am?" we seem to say. This is how we show how devoted we are. As if extremism, intolerance and hate were a sign of devotion.
Whenever we are in conflict with another person it is tempting to think of the other person in a stereotypical way. In extreme situations, we may see them as less than human, even the very personification of evil.
In war, the combatants on both sides are taught to see the enemy as a caricature, not really human. Humans have a natural aversion to killing other humans. Unfortunately, we have, I think, taken the mindset of battle and carried it into every area of our lives. The result is an unwillingness to negotiate, to compromise, to seek a mutual agreement because to do so would be to compromise with evil itself.
What is missing is an acknowledgement that the other person is a person, too. No matter who they are, what they believe, what side they are on of any issue, that other person is a person and should always be treated with the respect that every human being deserves. As Horton says so often in Dr. Seuss' charming children's book, "Horton Hears a Who!" "a person's a person, no matter how small."
The apostle Paul writes, "(Love) does not insist on its own way . but rejoices in the truth," 1 Cor. 13:5-6. What we forget in all this is that we just can't be right without love. Whatever we do, if it is not loving, it just isn't worth doing.
The Rev. Daniel Fultz is the pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church.