Sunday, November 20, 2016
Challenged to Peace!
DISSENSION AND DIVISION
It’s the end of the world, everything is going to be awful, what will we do?” That’s the way a lot of people feel about the election results that resulted in Donald Trump becoming our president elect.
Of course, that is also the way a lot of people felt when President Obama was elected and re-elected, and when George W. Bush was elected and re-elected, and when Bill Clinton was elected and re-elected…and I suspect it was experienced by people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as well.
A number of us struggle even more with the way dissension and division seems to be growing in our country, which as our pastor pointed out last night, was the kind of sentiment that once led to a Civil War in our country and the deaths of thousands of people. And the truth is, one can follow that thread back century after century, nation after nation to find that humans are experts in arguing and fighting. It is getting along with people who think differently and focusing on common ground that is hard for us.
Perhaps this is part of the cause of divorce…that we are better at arguing, fighting and creating dissension than we are at compromising, finding middle ground and working together with others who think differently than ourselves. What we see on an international and national scale is replayed in home and home around the globe. If we can’t find a way to work with a person to whom we have committed our love and our lives, then how will we ever learn to work with individuals with whom we have no personal involvement and few shared values?
It is hard to admit that maybe somebody else’s point of view is just as valid as your own. It is hard to let go of something important to you so that others can have something important to them. It is hard to put as high a priority on another person’s values as you place on your own. But, it seems to me, that is exactly what is required to make a marriage work, and to make a country of diverse people work as well. It is also what is required of us sometimes when we stand for what is right, even at personal cost, especially when we speak up for others who can never pay us back and for whom nobody else is willing to speak.
It also seems to me that these kinds of things are embedded in the fabric of Christianity as described in the Bible (all quoted from NASB):
John 15:13, the words of Jesus-- Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
Matthew 5:44-45, again from Jesus-- But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Philippians 2:3-4, penned by Paul-- Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Colossians 3:12-14, again from Paul-- So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
1 John 4:16-17, penned by John-- We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
James 3:18, penned by James-- And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
In whatever arenas of your life where there is division, dissension, or the urge to participate in them, let me challenge you to be the one who is big enough to create peace and forbearance instead. We have plenty of people demanding their own rights and interests in the world. We need more willing to lay down their lives for a greater cause, for someone and something beyond themselves. I’m not one who engages in magical thinking and believes everyone will come together and join hands around a cozy campfire.
But I do believe each of us can make a difference in our part of the world and in our relationships when we are willing to truly care about the needs of others instead of obsessing about our own.
Who knows, maybe somebody reading this is contemplating divorce, and that slight change of attitude could be the very thing to turn their marriage around!