Can we talk? Those of us who are old enough to remember comedian Joan Rivers can hardly hear the phrase without thinking of her. It was her catch phrase and she made it funny. But, when the laughter dies down and we really hear the question, it’s a serious, important question: Can we talk? When Rivers uttered it, there wasn’t really a “we” doing the talking. Perhaps the better question for us is, Can we talk and listen to one another — especially when we don’t agree?
This Sunday, continuing our series on the Apostle Paul, we’ll look at Romans 14:1-12. It is clear that the first-century Church was divided over certain issues. In this passage the issues were what food is appropriate to eat, whether there are days that are more sacred than others — not burning issues in the Church today. However, the way we treat each other in our differences is as burning an issue today as ever. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Welcome the person who is weak in faith — but not in order to argue about differences of opinion . . . We don’t live for ourselves and we don’t die for ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister?”
At our best, the church is a community where people can get to know one another and trust one another. Therefore, where the church is gathered there can be true exchange of ideas and respect of differences. Looking out across the landscape of the world in which we now live, you can see that this is not just a nice idea; it is a critical necessity. Today, people are so polarized into camps that they are losing the ability to talk to one another. They are so polarized that they are losing the ability to get to know one another across the growing gulfs they have created between them. Where in our society today can this happen? It can happen, I believe, where the church is gathered. Might it also happen when we go out to be God’s people in the world?
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we think together about how to talk to one another when we don’t agree.
Grace and Peace,