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Why You Must Cultivate a Generosity without Borders

First Lady Barbara Bush’s funeral was an inspiring and, for a brief moment, refreshing display of a kinder, gentler time in U.S. politics.

David Priess posted an amazing photo on his Twitter feed of each of the presidents in attendance and their wives.

He made this comment, “Each president in this photo did things I disagreed with politically. Quite a lot, in fact, for most of them. And yet I never doubted that every single one of them acted based on core values, including love of country – not, primarily, love of self.”

Several persons offered meaningful eulogies about the former first lady, yet it was a line from the rector of the church that stood out to me.

In referencing Bush’s approach to others, Russell Levenson said, “Her generosity did not draw lines to keep others out.”

That’s another way of reinforcing the words of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s not easy being a pastor. One of the great challenges I have is interacting with people who have such divergent political views.

Yet, it is also a privilege to learn from people who are different from me and not make one’s political (or theological) approach a basis for my having a friendship with them.

The level of discourse in our country has deteriorated to toxic levels. While that might not be all that surprising, what has me deeply concerned is what is happening in our churches.

Specifically, I am most troubled by the behavior of those who call themselves ministers of the gospel.

Pastors, ministers, rectors and clergy of all denominations (or lack thereof) must take responsibility for setting a positive tone of civility in our nation.

I’ve heard people say that pastors shouldn’t be political, but I’m more inclined to think that partisanship is more detrimental than being political.

Our church hosted the ChurchNet Spring Gathering on April 20.

The keynote speaker was Jeremy Bell, executive director of the North American Baptist Fellowship.

During his remarks, he talked about the fact that church members needed to be able to explain “the damage that our votes are making” upon our society.

Bell indicated that no matter who or what you voted for, there would be a certain level of collateral damage upon our society. That’s because there is no perfect political viewpoint or candidate.

What I inferred from those remarks is that our primary emphasis needs to be on the prophetic message of Jesus Christ in our communities.

And this message needs to be communicated to all persons, regardless of background or viewpoint.

I’m working on practicing a generosity that doesn’t “create lines to keep others out.”

Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but that’s the kind of generosity Jesus had toward those around him.

It would be wonderful if it didn’t take a funeral to bring people together. Most people are naturally more sympathetic and supportive during times of grief and loss, but wouldn’t it be great if we could hold differences of opinion without hating one another?

Fred Rogers, host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for so many years, will be the focus of a movie this summer.

One of the most meaningful things he said was this: “Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all relationships. Love, or the lack of it.”

May God help us to have a generosity that doesn’t create boundaries or lines. Let all of us as church leaders take the lead on creating a more positive world with room for differences of opinion.

We can be influential and prophetic with the gospel without excluding people from its message.

Danny Chisholm is senior pastor of University Heights Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. A version of this article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @ChisholmDanny.