Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Pause that refreshes

Honest disagreement shows that the people involved have truly listened to and heard one another, and so, come to a mutual realization that, on a certain matter, they will not be of one mind. If this happens often enough, though, the matters around which disagreement exists come to overwhelm commonality, and the final agreement is to part ways. So, perhaps better not to acknowledge our disagreement unless absolutely forced to do so? What to do?

At the risk of oversimplification, let me recall the process Jesus described for his first followers, those bound together by love of Christ. They were to begin with a private conversation between the party injured and the injuring party. If this failed to resolve the matter, there would follow another conversation that would include a fellow member or two of the family of faith, parties not disinterested, but also not as passionately invested in the disagreement as the original participants. If this also failed to achieve a resolution, the next move would bring the wider community of the Church into the matter, presumably to see if the moral weight of the Church could mediate a resolution. Failing this, the presumably righteous contender should, Jesus said, regard the offender as ‘a Gentile or tax-collector;’ i.e., as an undesirable; which is to say, someone outside the fellowship.For people who have gathered together in the Name, to turn from one another is also to turn from the Christ who was among them when they had gathered.