by Rev. Dan Morley
This is not something new, but it sure seems to be increasingly at the forefront of our relationships and discourse — the polarized, partisan, protagonist approaches to issues and people. We are a people quick to designate right and wrong, stand firm on decided issue positions, and convince others of our rightness.
I support and encourage conviction and passion, especially on matters of faith. However, I equally value learning, thinking, questioning, and exploring. I value and respect other people which means listening to their ideas and thoughts. I value the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and the qualities and nature of love as Paul so eloquently describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Both of these passages lead me to seek first to understand and then to be understood; to practice humility; to honor and respect the other.
I have recently been focusing upon Timothy’s call to be bold and of courage (2 Timothy). It is a challenge to hold together the virtues of courage, gentleness, and self-control. It is our tendency to equate courage and boldness with confrontation and aggression. I think we lean toward expressing our convictions so staunchly and even righteously because we too often focus upon the issue rather than the person.
When Paul writes of love and the fruit of the Spirit, it is in the context of relationships. If we focus upon the other person (and the Spirit within) when engaging in debate about a hot-topic, we will be closer to practicing the fruit of the Spirit. When feeling your pulse increase, breath quicken, and frustration build — shift the priority from issue to person and strive to discern why the other is so impassioned and give them the gift of a listening ear and spirit.
Recently, a friend in the faith, Phyllis Murray (our District Lay Leader) and I were listening to a podcast as we traveled the highways together around the district. We were both deeply moved by the reflections of a woman who learned these deep truths on Twitter of all places. Twitter is often a forum for polarized, partisan, protagonist rhetoric, but it was on that platform that she experienced the fruit of the Spirit and now seeks to teach others how to have civil and holy conversation on important matters. Perhaps you will appreciate her talk, too — CLICK HERE.
In the Grace of Christ,