Friday, July 21, 2006

Some thoughts on our church family

Our community may not always look diverse from the outside, but we are full of different opinions, preferences, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. It is difficult to hold all those things together, and I am as guilty of any as wanting everyone to agree with me. I've recently been challenged by reading Desmond Tutu's writings from The Rainbow People of God, which I picked up while in South Africa. Many have been posting quotes lately, and I thought this was something I would like to share, if for no other reason than to ask to be reminded of it regularly...

Our Lord came into a deeply divided and polarized society...The world saw a veritable miracle unfolding before its very eyes as all sorts and conditions of women and men, rich and poor, slave and free, Jew and Gentile--all these came to belong in one fellowship, one koinonia, one communion. They did not regard one another just as equals. That in itself would have been a huge miracle, for a slave to be accepted as an equal by his former master. An equal you can acknowledge once and then for ever thereafter ignore. No, they regarded one another not just as equals but as sisters and brothers, members of one family, God's family. Extraordinarily a once apprehensive Ananias can actually call a former persecutor of Christians 'Brother Saul...' You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. Perhaps if we could, we might have chosen different brothers and sisters. Fortunately or unfortunately we can't. We have them as they have us. And no matter how your brother may be, you can't renounce him. He may be a murderer or worse, but he remains for ever your brother. Our baptism has made us brothers and sisters. Can you imagine what would happen in this land if we accepted that theological fact about ourselves-- that whether we like it or not we are members of one family?

The wonderful thing about family is that you are not expected to agree about everything under the sun. Show me a man and wife who have never disagreed and I will show you some accomplished fibbers. But those disagreements, pray God, do not usually destroy the unity of the family. And so it should be with God's family, the Church. We are not expected at all times to be unanimous nor to have a consensus on every conceivable subject. As long as we are at one on the fundamentals and refuse to let go of one another... Healthy differences of opinion can help the body to be more lively. After all it is unity we are talking about, not uniformity. What is needed is to respect one another's points of view and not to impute* unworthy motives to one another nor to seek to impugn** the integrity of the other. Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another, and to cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other. As the Church we are set as a sign in the world, the first fruits of the Kingdom, to demonstrate what God intends for human society to be, united in a rich diversity, to demonstrate that Christ has indeed broken down the middle wall of partition...

(I liked Ryan's way of doing this)
*impute- to assign as a characteristic
**impugn- to attack as false or questionable

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