Something continues which breaks my heart. Over the last several years, more than any other time in my life, person after person has shared with me the heartache of broken relationships. Whether brothers and sisters, parents and children, marriages, long term neighbors, or childhood friends, so many have shared the pain of connections that have come apart.
What is tragic to me is that the source of such relationship endings generally have had nothing to do with the relationships themselves, but rather political, health, or social positions taken.
Sadly, I have witnessed countless people putting positions over relationally connecting with others. Party affiliation, views on social issues, and whether or not a mask is worn seemingly has become more important to many than the person standing right in front of them. Increased rage, apoplectic speech, raised blood pressure, and vitriolic animosity have become the acceptable norm.
Parents have put issues ahead of their relationship with their grandchildren. Long term friends forget the basis of their friendships and instead shake their heads in disbelief at “how someone could think that way.” Siblings stop calling one another because a fight over this and that view supersede blood lines. Parishioners sit in pews not listening for the Holy Spirit but whether or not words will be spoken that express a political view.
While I myself have not been immune from what I am writing about, I am clear that this is not how God wants us to live. Simply stated, we just need to stop and name what has been happening as not acceptable. If you look at Jesus’ life as described in the Gospels, the one thing that upset him most was when a person put a position or a view ahead of the inherent value of a human being.
In November of 1940, the city of Coventry in England was decimated by bombs. The magnificent cathedral in Coventry was largely destroyed. Only outer walls remained. When the roof collapsed, two large beams fell and landed in the shape of a cross. The Provost of the Cathedral made a decision. That decision was to let go of the need for revenge and instead to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with those who had bombed the cathedral. To this day, what is known as the Community of the Cross of Nails continues in its work of reconciliation.
As followers of Jesus, I believe all of us are called by God to make a decision as we stand in the rubble of so many relationships. I believe we are called to put people ahead of position and to do the hard work of reconciliation and forgiveness even while real and valid disagreements continue. Sometimes we may be called to put our positions aside in order to connect or reconnect with someone we have loved in the past.
In God’s eyes, none of us are liberals or conservatives. Instead, we are each human beings created in the image of God who are cherished and loved by God beyond our conception.
There is little doubt in my mind, however difficult it may be at times, that God calls us to learn to see and treat others as God does. It is through such a lense, through the lens of love, that we are to approach our disagreements and various views.
When we feel ourselves slipping away from seeing the other as God does, it is then we are compelled to let the issue go and look into the eyes of the other and listen. Sometimes we are called to create a space of silence with the other and quietly invite the healing power of God’s Holy Spirit to do the Spirit’s work.
Over the days and months ahead, let’s begin talking about and exploring reconciliation individually and as a community of faith. It is a vast topic yet fortunately one with much guidance to be offered by those who have blazed the conciliatory trail. In the meantime, please join me in prayer that each of us will be filled with the Holy Spirit and a heart like Jesus.