4 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
I write this month in a world that seems different than the one last month. Of course, it’s not really changed at all. What is different is that the underlying tensions we have in our society have moved to the surface a little, rather a lot, more clearly. The discord between varying races and economic statuses has burst into the full view of all. And it’s not pretty. No one likes it. No one wants to address it. But we must, for two reasons: 1) a society cannot stand divided, and 2) because Christ himself painted us a picture of a united world.
How did we get here? I think we have arrived at this crucial junction of American history through many years of slow change. The rugged individualism of the American ethos, which is almost a religion into itself, has morphed in a “me vs. everyone else” mentality. Instead of talking through differences and learning from them, we shun any different viewpoint as invalid and dismiss the bearer of that view as a misguided idiot (strong words, but it’s what we’re calling each other).
The Gospel of Matthew (18:15-20) gives us direction on dealing with others. Just after Jesus deals with the Disciples wondering who was greatest (and Jesus replying that the one humble, like a child, is), he gives specifics on how to address those we have issues with. 1) Speak with them alone, listening and being listened to. 2) If that doesn’t work, take one or two others with you and try again. This way you have witnesses of the interaction. 3) If that doesn’t work, take the grievance to the community. 4) If that doesn’t work, then they are severed and are outsiders.
We go about this all wrong today. We start by airing our grievances in public, often without ever speaking with the offending or differing party. We go straight to number 4 and write off someone entirely without ever really hearing their side of the discussion or even attempting reconciliation. We are quick to judge and dismiss and slow to accept and learn. This may be why we are in a mess. We have forgotten how to deal with each other – and it’s in the Bible!
We need to live with and spread the idea of humility. We need to remember that we defer to Christ. It is not our own power that saves the world, it is his. And in his power, we need to embrace the idea of loving others, no matter how lovable or unlovable they are. We need to learn to reconcile and live with differences, learning from each other and becoming stronger as one. The fractures in our culture are visible now. Let us use the glue of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to put it back together again.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Brian Siegle