For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” is the sentiment of Jesus in Mark 3:25. It comes about every time we human beings try to make complex and difficult realities simple and easy. It comes through binary “either/or” thinking. Once we reduce everything to right and wrong, good and bad, Republican and Democrat, those who agree with us and those who don’t, we have created an adversarial and contentious structure.
But Christians follow the Christ who breaks down the dividing walls and brings reconciliation and unity. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to transcend differences and embrace our commonalities and consensus. We are able to break free from “either/or” thinking to see a bigger picture. An old proverb advises, “when faced with two options, choose the third.” It is time for us to choose a third option.
“Both/and” thinking is a challenge for us because it forces us out of our comfort zone and requires that we engage with people who think very differently. A recent example comes to my mind. Someone asked the question, “who do you stand with in Kenosha – the protesters of violence against black people or the police?” My immediate thought is, I stand with all people – I stand with innocent victims, and those who have caused problems, and those who enforce the law, and for the redemption and healing of all involved. I look at broken lives and violence and harm, and subsequent destruction of property and livelihoods, at the faces and cries of faithful people seeking justice, and I don’t feel the need to take sides. I want healing and justice for everyone, with appropriate accountability and reparations and penalties, but done with grace and integrity and respect. I don’t like the rhetoric and the biased messaging that create more harm than good, but I also pray for those who tell the stories. I believe it is more important than ever that we not listen to just one source (“either/or”), but that we look to multiple sources, and whenever the call is to divide and choose sides, that we step back and not be drawn in.
We have witnessed breaking and burning and tearing down; the time is now to begin rebuilding and creating and healing. If we find we must identify others as enemies, let us do so with Jesus’ injunction that we must love our enemies. If we find we cannot disagree without doing harm or violence, then let us seek forgiveness and healing from God. We are one humanity; we believe we have been all created in the image of God, that all have sinned and stand in the need of grace, and that we are all beloved children of God. We are not a people of “either/or” or “us/them;” we are one people called of God to bring “both/and, all-of-us” healing to a divided world. Beyond pandemics, beyond brutalities and bad behaviors, beyond bigotry and lethal violence we must find the greater good and the higher ground.
I continue to pray for all – those who have been broken, and those who break; those who have sacrificed even their lives, and those who take lives too easily; those who work so hard to protect and preserve, and those who for whatever reason act to destroy. I believe that our “both/and” God is greater than all our human divisions, and that it is only by God’s healing grace that we will ever truly know radical inclusion and racial justice. Remember that Christian justice is always restorative justice and this can never be achieved by division and embattled spirits; it is only achieved when we pray as Jesus did in Gethsemane, “not our will, O Lord, but thy will be done.”
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).