By Bill Behr

The story of Anders Breivik is very sad. The mass murderer admitted to killing innocent Norwegian men, women and teenagers in a bombing-and-shooting spree in 2011. He was recently sentenced to 21 years in prison.  What brought about this great tragedy?

He justified the 77 deaths, and more than 240 injured, as necessary to prevent "Islamization." He insisted he is sane. He feared that Norway (and all of Europe) was losing its identity to Muslims settling in his country.

Breivik radically took matters into his own hands.

How many times throughout history have we seen people persecuted or oppressed – looked down as having less value, less worth, less dignity – just because they were “different”?

The oppressors said they had a different colored skin, a different race, a different sexual orientation or maybe just lifted under a different set of rules – and these people groups could not be tolerated.  Thus, illogical and hate-filled tragedies (some call them wars) occur again and again in the name of fear, protection and control.

It is in our nature to compare ourselves to others and decide who is better. So begins the slippery slide, as we focus solely on ourselves. (“How can I get more control of my life and become better than others who have less, look better, are popular, and achieve more recognition at work?”)  This focus becomes an obsession and way of life.  It leads us to judge and segregate other people and groups, treating them as “beneath us.” These are the  “have-nots” of our society.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that Jesus became man and, out of unconditional love, sacrificed Himself to pay for all the sin in each of our lives.  In Jesus’ time, the Jews lived under Roman oppression.  Jesus did not condone fighting the Romans. Instead, in Matthew 5:43-45, he said,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Paul wrote to the Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

I am the first one to admit that I sometimes look down on others.  I compare myself to everyone. The world tells me what is pretty and what is not, who is successful and who is not, who is poor and who is not.  The world dictates that there are “haves” and “have-nots.”

“Comparison is the enemy of contentment,” my Pastor says. If you are living an anxiety-filled life of fear, sadness or loneliness: turn your focus off yourself. Then, start sharing God’s love with those you look down on. Even better, let them give back to you. (One idea: Let them pray for you.)  You will recognize their dignity when you let them serve you. And you just might discover after that, after spending time with them, they were “haves” (like us) all along.

Thank You Lord for showing us the real beauty of every person we meet. Help give us the strength to reach out and love the people (our family, our neighbors, and the marginalized) you put on our hearts.  Praise you, Father. Amen!

Bill Behr

Bill Behr is the Associate Campus Minister of Summit @ 33rd St. and can be reached at bbehr@summitconnect.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.