The world is changing. Nothing new there! This has been the lament of many, the inspiration for others…the plea, the angst, the hope, the frustration, and the divide among generations; races; genders; countries; religions; neighbors; brothers and sisters; spouses and…well…change can cause conflict wherever 2 or more are gathered…
Wait! Isn’t that supposed to be a statement of unity and love? Matthew 18:20 states:
For wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
Of course, theological scholars will say this was meant for the church. You know, for those times when turmoil surrounding rules and laws cause people to argue and fuss about what should be done…or forgotten…or forgiven. Everybody has an opinion! So often those assumptions are based on personal interests, individualized worldviews and self-centered desires. Sometimes our opinions change and evolve when we dare to remember who we are and Whose we are, a practice that involves stepping outside of ‘self’ and into understanding we are part of something huge and amazing; something we can’t fully understand; something bigger and better than me or mine or the small perspective of an isolated group of people that I might be part of.
Peter, Paul and Mary sang about it in The Wedding Song, taking the appropriate liberty to swap the word “love” for the phrase “I am there among them.” After all, God is the author of love, thus streamlining the phrase into one word still says it all. God is with us when ever we are with others. I guess that means God is there when we meet in worship; when we go to the mall; when we drink wine with the neighbors; when we argue with our spouse; when we walk past the homeless; when we scream horrible things at people who love someone we wouldn’t choose for them; when we make despicable assumptions based on race or religion; and when we simply choose not to share our time, talents and resources with someone in need. God is there, always and everywhere. Sometimes God smiles and, most surely, sometimes God weeps as she attempts to get the attention of our heart by peeling back our selfish, limited vision of what it means to live in her perfectly created world.
The problem is, we don’t allow love to show up in so many of our interactions. We cling to prejudice; political stances; the ceaseless yearning to be right; and world views that exclude those who are different, even though to them we are the ones who are different. We migrate towards people who share our limited thoughts and we talk about others who are not like us. Sometimes we laugh about their shortcomings, as if the log is in their eye and not ours. (Matthew 7:3-5)
This brings us back to change. In recent weeks we have had reports of riots over racial issues; protests and celebrations over Supreme Court rulings; supposed religious groups randomly killing innocent people; political rhetoric aimed at polarizing groups of people; and the list goes on. In each instance, one groups clings to a viewpoint that isolates another group. Rarely do we hear about honest conversations between individuals with the sole intention of understanding rather than condemning or persuading.
I stepped in the proverbial ‘pooh’ this week by entering a conversation that has polarized women for years. The odd thing is, perspectives are so opposed that finding enough middle ground to begin a necessary discussion is almost impossible. We know we must try, but how do we calm our own perspectives long enough to hear thoughts that are difficult for us to embrace without hurling our “log” at another person? How do we peel the differences between us away long enough to hear and to see the potential beauty in life’s inevitable diversity…and change?
You see, what makes sense to one can be utter nonsense to another. What we accept as sensible is the composite of our education, news feeds, social interactions, region, country, heritage, family values, religion, conversations, and life experiences that churn together until we are able to rationalize any and all of our behaviors so completely that we forget the One who created us also created the one who makes no sense to us…the one we snub, or isolate…the one who is different than society’s norm…the one who thinks differently…worships differently…loves differently…
“Wherever two or three are gathered together, I am there with them.”
Oh that we would remember that! Wherever…whenever…however…as two or three or five hundred or thousands of us gather, let us humble ourselves long enough to feel God’s presence. Then, may our interactions with others be energized by love for God, neighbor and self rather than by our limited sense and combined non-sense.