May 10, 2020
There are a few things in life that we can all pretty much agree on, perhaps, but, honestly, very few. Some people love to get up and watch the sunrise; others want to stay up ‘till 2 AM and hoot with the owls. Steaks are better rare or well-done, depending upon your taste. Wisconsin winters are intolerable or they are a paradise for ice fishermen. Korbel or Southern Comfort makes the best Old Fashioned. We may never agree on that one!
But one truth we can all agree upon is this: if human beings are involved, at some point, there will be conflict. I don’t care how united a group might be at the start or how deeply in love you might be or how virtuous the cause, if human beings are involved, there will inevitably be conflict. Right? Even the spirit-filled believers of the early Christians found that to be true.
As the number of disciples continued to grow (Luke tells us), the Hellenists (the Greek believers) complained against the Hebrews (the Jewish converts)… that their widows weren’t getting the same amount of food. Conflict arose. They were, of course, not strangers to conflict, so they figured out a way to make it work, listening to both sides, and finding a new way, deacons, that would pave a unified path. And everyone lived happily ever after…for a while. Until the next conflict.
The Christian Church has seen its share of conflict, some of which has been easily resolved and some with which we continue to struggle. We see it yet today in the multitude of denominations of Christianity and even divisions that arise in the Catholic Church and within parishes (well…other parishes, not ours, of course). We see it in differing opinions of what makes good liturgy, of what’s the right way to receive Communion. People parish shop until they find one they like or get mad and leave a parish and (maybe) look for another. Whenever people are involved, at some point, there will be conflicts.
But here’s what we must try to remember: the very birth of our Christian faith was born out of conflict. Think about it! As the psalmist said, “The stone rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus, a rabbi rejected by his own people, became the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. Jesus, crucified and risen as the Christ, is our ultimate unity with God and one another. I find, not so much irony, as I find divine providence in that. And it also drives me to do everything I can to preserve that unity.
It is Christ who joins all people as one. The very one who lost his life because of conflict has become, if we let him, the very one that unites us when our differences arise. The way, the truth and the life becomes the very answer.
And not just in our church, but our families, as well. Be honest – what family, living through this pandemic, has not seen the effect of a little too much closeness. Sometimes a little social distancing is a good thing. We should not be naive enough to think we can create a fairytale land of peace, but we must be faithful enough to believe that Christ can.
In fact, it is a fundamental obligation of followers of Christ to preserve the unity of God’s human family: the family of believers and church and neighborhoods, within and between nations. And we can only do that if we fully recognize the Christ, living among us and within us. There is, after all, only one way to God – through Christ.
So, we seek the common ground or find a new way when different priorities arise. We seek reconciliation to heal the Body when divisions come about. We seek and offer forgiveness so that we will be able to do the work God has sent us to do. When the story of the Risen Lord, the Christ, stands in priority over our personal story, when we follow His way and not ours, seek His truth and not another, long for His life even more than our own…we will find unity. We will accomplish the good for which we have been sent. We will come to the Father.