Faith in Christ is not only a profession to be made but also a life to be lived.
– Daniel G. Powers, New Beacon Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, p. 263
Did you know that it is possible to disagree with someone without hating them?
I don’t think many of us do know that these days.
My seminary hosts a preacher’s conference every year. It’s a day-and-a-half conference that anyone who is interested in the art and craft of preaching is welcome to attend. There are main sessions, during which different preachers offer a sermon and then sit down for a short question-and-answer section about how they approached putting that sermon together. There are lab sessions, during which presenters discuss the minutiae of preaching (and often, pastoring). For me as a distance participant, it was about a total of 10 hours of worship with a side of “how to.”
This year, the main preacher (meaning, he preached twice) was Dr. Frank Thomas. He’s from outside my Wesleyan tradition, which I appreciate. It’s good to remember that the Church is much bigger than this one particular expression. I like hearing from people that have a different perspective, whether it’s a slight difference or a big one. I can listen and learn. Do I agree with Dr. Thomas on every issue of life? Of course not. I think he’s wrong about some things, and I’m sure he’d think the same about me if we were ever to meet. But I don’t doubt that he loves God and wants others to know that they can have redemptive relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
He even had me shouting, “Amen!” while I cleaned my kitchen as I listened to his second sermon.
We’re too quick to write off those with whom we disagree. No, it’s not even that. We’re quick to flat-out hate those with whom we disagree. To caricature them, to mock them. To hide behind the anonymity of social media as we merrily spew half-truth (otherwise known as lies) about others. To indulge in the arrogance of believing that we are always right and anyone who doesn’t hold the exact same views we do is always wrong. To secretly (or not-so-secretly) think that the abundance of God’s love is reserved for us and withheld from them.
We’re not nearly righteous enough to be flipping tables like Jesus did.
And yet, we try. Or if we’re not flipping tables, we work to make them so small that only people exactly like us are able to sit at them.
There is absolute truth, which transcends time and cultural context. I believe that. I know that there are times to take a stand against untruths like misogyny, racism, nationalism. But our head knowledge of that truth doesn’t do us or anyone else any good if it doesn’t make that longest of travels down to our hearts and transform us. Why should anyone listen to us when we tell them that we’ve got good news when they can see how we treat each other? If we can’t even be kind to those on the “inside,” then why should outsiders want to come in?
The good thing is that, by the grace of God, truth can indeed work its way from our heads to our hearts. We can be full of the kind of transformative love that makes us look more and more like Jesus each day. We don’t have to continue on in destructive patterns of hate. We can recognize doing so as the waste of time and energy it is. We can spend our lives in humble, joyful service.
May we choose to do so.
GRACE AND PEACE ALONG THE WAY,
Image Courtesy of Jessica Da Rosa