Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Loving Those Who Believe Differently

   Tuesday at Epworth captured, in a microcosm, the current state of affairs in our world. Our church was filled with people of very differing opinions. People on the left and the right. To be honest, there were some who walked through our front doors that align themselves well past the normal left and others so right as to not be able to see the center. 
   Tuesday was election day. Epworth is a polling place for a few large neighborhoods here in Columbus. 
   Everyone has opinions. Most people have thought-out beliefs. Lots of people hold strong convictions. None of this is news to you or new to the world. 
How are we to live in a world so divided? Jesus answers that in Matthew 22 with the Great Commandment: Love God, Love Neighbor and Love Yourself. So, how can we love those who are so different? To me, this is as pressing a question as any in 2012 with lines drawn on so many issues and topics. 
   I don't offer a quick or easy answer, but do offer a glimpse into our own history for how this question has been dealt with in the past. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, published a sermon in 1771 titled Catholic Spirit, using the term catholic like it was first used to describe the Christian Church in the early 2nd century and emphasize its universal scope. In it Wesley is speaking to those who live with the knowledge that not every person thinks or acts the same. He says, 
"Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without doubt, we may. In this all the children of God may unite, even though they retain these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may help one another increase in love and in good works."
Wesley then frames the rest of the sermon around a brief exchange in the Old Testament between Jehu and Jehonadab in 2 Kings 10:15
   I wants to share what the Rev. Kevin Watson, a UM seminary professor in Seattle, shared about Wesley's sermon when he said:
Wesley is making the case for charity and a hermeneutic of generosity towards others. He is realistic in his acknowledgment that people will not agree about everything.... The sermon reminds me of the room for growth I have in loving those with whom I disagree. And it reminds me that it takes work, it is not something to merely be vaguely affirmed.... He is actually saying that Christians should be close-minded in their own beliefs, but generous and charitable with those with whom they disagree. Put differently, Wesley is arguing for certainty in the specifics of one’s faith that comes from careful thought and examination of the options and not a devaluing of the role of doctrine in order to have a bigger tent. (read more here)
   I believe the same. We can love others in ways that show the love of God. First, spend real time in learning what you believe. Second, do look for the value in the other person even if you don't agree with the words they are saying. Don't be reduced to the name-calling and separating that is so prevalent today. Finally, be open to the fact you can be wrong. There are countless choices, votes, ballots, discussions, and topics. We will be wrong on some. We can be loving in all of them.

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