My grandfather was known for treating African-Americans with the same dignity he treated everyone else back during the civil rights movement. In a society which was telling everyone that a certain standard of racism was acceptable and right, my grandfather along with many others held themselves to a higher Christian standard.
During elementary school I grew up in a mixed race neighborhood. My two best friends were brothers, one a year older and one a year younger. Chris, the older one, was half black. Amir, the younger one, was half Iraqi. We were not concerned with our race or the races of the other children. The only thing we kept track of was who we liked to play with.
By fifth grade I was the only white kid on the bus but not the only one being bullied. If my friends were present they would stick up for me and I for them. By eighth grade I understood why bullies act the way they do and was thankful for making friends with some tough guys. I remember openly offering my friendship in middle school to many lonely individuals. I continued this awkward offer into high school but did not feel included myself until I joined theater my junior year.
Our children and those around us watch how we treat others. My dad saw how my grandfather treated those who were supposedly “different.” We as Christians sometimes need a reminder of the higher standards. We need to remember those who have shown courage when defending those higher standards. The LIFE magazine cover from March 26th, 1965 shows an Orthodox Christian Bishop with Martin Luther King, Jr. As an Orthodox Christian, this is a nice reminder that even leaders need the support of other leaders during a time a hardship. I cannot imagine the extreme bullying and terrorizing MLK and his family experienced. Fortunately we know that many stood with him.
You will have many opportunities to love your neighbor as yourself. This includes all neighbors: mean, disgruntled, angry, rude, deceitful, or worse. It is in these critical moments when loving our neighbor will be the same thing as evangelizing them. I do not mean evangelizing in terms of teaching them correct doctrine. Instead I am talking about proving that you love God with all your might, and that you love your neighbor as you love yourself. It is also in these moments of loving your neighbor that others will see how you treat people. In the words of Les Miserables, “to love another person is to see the face of God.”
Question: Are we only nice to those who are nice to us?