Follow Francis’ advice

Last week, Pope Francis paid a visit to Congress and, while there, he offered a message to lawmakers that we would all do well to heed. It was a message steeped in Biblical principal: treat others as you would want to be treated, loving and respecting your neighbor no matter who that neighbor is or the differences that separate you.

It is a message, as one editorialist put it, that is “as old as Christianity: That we must open our minds to those who are different, and we must open our hearts to those who make us uncomfortable.”

It is a difficult message to put into practice, even for the most devout among us.Why? Because those things which make us uncomfortable are far easier avoided than faced head on. While we might not detest those who are different from us, we often find it hard to get along with (and often love) those who don’t live as we live, work as we work, or share the beliefs we share.

Rather than hating the sin and loving the sinner, we lean toward hating the sin and avoiding the sinner, or worse still castigating the sinner for things we have judged to be distasteful, immoral, impractical, wasteful or just plain unnecessary.

Pope Francis was trying to tell lawmakers that it is not up to us to judge; it is up to us to find a way to put aside personal agendas for the greater good, finding a way to common goals, top among them peace.

Unfortunately the public mirrors what is happening on Capitol Hill. We judge first and then act upon those judgments, refusing to find common ground. More than ever before, opposing views don’t just raise ire, they hoist flags of resentment that stymie efforts that could benefit others.

Look around you today. Are there people in your community who you look down on, who make you uncomfortable? If so, consider why. Then remember the admonition from Francis to treat others as we would want to be treated, and try to act accordingly.

See, then, how your life might be different, how your attitude might have changed and how, over time, that can impact others in your life.

There are many things going on in this country today that we disagree with, yet we, like others, would do well to remember that it is one thing to disagree with a principle and another to hate those who offer an opposing view.

It is admittedly hard to love our neighbor, yet doing so will make this world a better place for us all.