Monday, 29 July 2013

Conquer Differences with Communication

(Originally printed at the time of the Boston Marathon bombings as an ecumenical column for The News Herald of Franklin, PA) 

Yvonne Abraham, of the Boston Globe, writes, “Like so many others this week, local imams (Islamic leaders—often of a mosque and the Muslim community) have been praying since Monday’s bombings. They’ve been praying for the victims. They’ve been praying that the fanatic who did this (bombing) is caught quickly and brought to justice. And they’ve been praying for something more: Whoever it is, please don’t let him be a Muslim. ‘What will happen to us if they arrest someone and that someone turns out to be a Muslim?’”

Grief, confusion, hurt, anger, and conflict abound—assumptions being made—fingers pointed—blame placed. It sickens me that a whole group is already preparing for the days to come—the possibilities that there will be retaliatory shootings in mosques, rocks through windows—more grief, confusion, hurt, anger, and conflict.  All the “work to build bridges” is in jeopardy.

We fear what we do not know. We fill in the blanks when we do not have the answers. We deal with conflict in a way the world has taught to be appropriate. Bad news. Much of world is sick, broken and wounded—covered in the scales of sin that bind us tightly to the ground upon which we slither. Jesus teaches us how to manage conflict and disagreement. He is the model for conflict resolution that serves to address the many issues that divide us.

"If your brother sins against you (or maybe even just disagrees with you, or even is just different from you), go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens   to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matt 18: 15-17). Communicate—one to another.

Jesus was no coward—embracing conflict with truth and grace—and always with love. Imagine if we would embrace conflict, work toward understanding differences, view disagreements as opportunities to "turn the crystal" and see the light of Jesus Christ anew. 

We could be a miraculous witness to a world that seems to know nothing but violence, disagreement and discord and seems to smack its lips in anticipation of the taste. The world is what we will it to be. Live with it or commit to transform it.

This is one of the most courageous things one human being can do—go directly to someone to seek the truth and speak the truth—in love. Take a risk, be vulnerable, seek relationship, reach out. Get to know each other as human beings. And if that doesn’t work? Try again. No resolution? Try again. Still nothing? THEN treat him or her as the gentiles and tax collectors—and love.

Join us in worship at 7:30, 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings as we strive to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ as his disciples in all we do, growing more and more into people of faith, hope and love, nourished by God's Word and Sacraments.

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