Claiming a Different Path for Our WorldTwo are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
There is just a lot of division in our world right now. We are coming out of the most conflicted political season I have ever lived through. We have had leaders intentionally seek to divide our nation. We can easily line up behind our favorite news outlets and cast aspersions at those with different views. We can be quick to judge. But that has pretty serious consequences for us as a church and as people of faith.
In the book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis tells a story about his father, who was a deacon in the church Jim grew up in. “It was a conservative congregation. A great crisis arose over a sexual transgression. Two teenagers in the church had got themselves into trouble. The girl was pregnant, and both she and her boyfriend were being ostracized by their Christian community. The elders convened an emergency meeting to decide what to do. ‘Bring them up before the whole church, and we will denounce their behavior!’ said most of the church’s spiritual leaders.
“My father, who was the chief elder, objected to such harsh treatment. ‘Why would such a thing be necessary?’ He asked. ‘People need to know where we stand,’ the elders declared. ‘Do you think anybody doesn’t know where we stand?’ His father replied. ‘These two people need to know how wrong this was,’ asserted another elder. ‘Does anyone here doubt that these kids know they’ve made a terrible mistake and what a mess they’re in?’ answered my dad.
“The argument continued, and all the other elders were insistent on a very public rebuke of the young people. Finally, my father agreed, ‘Okay, Okay, we’ll do it.’ ‘Really?’ the others asked. ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Let’s bring them up in front of the whole church and declare their sins before everyone. Then let’s bring up everybody else too, one at a time, and declare all our sins. And since I’ve done so much counseling with so many of you and the families of the church, I’ll make sure nothing gets left out.’
“At that, the plans for confronting the young couple were dropped and a discussion followed about how to support them in their perilous situation. This discussion of judgment turned quickly to one in which equity and compassion could be experienced.”
Jim Wallis’ father reminded his church that a holier-than-thou, judgmental attitude is not always the best approach to the problems of our day. Not only is judgmentalism unhealthy, there is a better way to live a life of faith and our scriptures point us to a different way.
In a world of division, let’s find a way to build bridges. In a world of injustice, let’s find a way to stand for justice and grace. In a world of hatred, let’s resist an in-kind response and live out of a sense of God’s love for all.
Gracious God, thank you for coming to us in these challenging times. Help us to stand up for you. Help us to have our first allegiance to you. Remind us to stand up for others, to build bridges, to live with a healthy, daring, violent love for you and for this world. In the hope Jesus offers us, Amen.