Josiah and I don’t agree on everything. In fact it may be difficult to see anything we do totally agree on. Even our perceptions of loving God are different. Last semester he and I had a class together. It was called “Introduction to Practical theology.” We were paired together for the final project for which we had to harmonize our theological approaches to a specific situation. As we worked on our project we never saw eye to eye. We would go back and forth and I always left those meetings angry and frustrated with him, wondering how anyone could really think that way. We would awkwardly show friendship to one another but I never really could get past my frustration and my feeling that he didn’t understand me or where I was coming from. We finished that project as quick as we could because it was just too much. All the disagreement and feelings of misunderstanding were just overwhelming.
This semester Josiah is in my “Contemporary Christian Thought” class. We’ve been talking about the “Emerging Church” and postmodernism. And of course neither of us see eye to eye. We would glance at each other awkwardly at times during the discussion as if to let each other know that there was someone there who disagreed. We never really spoke and never really listen either. We just argued with each other through the mediation of our professor. I don’t know how he felt about me but I hated him. I thought he was ignorant and I needed him to know that I was right and he was wrong. I hated him up until about a week ago. We had just left another one of our classes and I was frustrated (as usual). I left the classroom and I glanced at him. In that moment I had a choice; to either keep walking in my frustration, believing I was right and he was wrong, or I could stop and talk with him. I walked over to him and shook his hand with that same frustration and decided that I needed to let it go. I had to leave it there with Josiah somehow. I asked him about how he enjoyed and what he got out of the discussion time. As we began talking I felt that I needed to listen to him, perhaps for the first time. I stood and talked with him for only about ten minutes but the freedom I felt was worth ten years. From the outside, our conversation looked normal and routine. We didn’t get into to much deep theological discourse, we just talked. I don’t even think he felt anything different about our conversation but to me it was fresh and new and healing. I began to understand where he was coming from and I didn’t feel the need to be understood. As we began to part ways I shook his hand again and said “I like your perspective.” What I really meant was “its ok now. It’s ok that we disagree. Thank God that we disagree.” And we parted ways.
It seems to me that Jesus was a lot more concerned with mending relationships than he was with being right. Though He was so misunderstood and so ridiculed I don’t think that anything He did was driven by a desire to look good or have His voice heard. Everything Jesus did was about mending and healing. Jesus dined with sinners at the risk of being called a heretic because he understood that being accepting was a lot more important than pointing out sin or looking better than someone. Jesus was all about healing broken relationships.
The Church has a lot of broken relationships. There are a lot of people who the Church has cut off from ever being a part of their life. We have pushed so many away and for what? So that they know that they are sinners? So that we can be right and they can know that they are wrong? It’s all meaningless if we abandon our greatest value; love. Broken relationships do not just hurt the people who we are deterring, it hurts us. The Church is enslaved in this struggle and it will eventually die in its slavery until it does something to mend its broken relationships.