Recent news stories have focused on rising inflation, the January 6th hearings, and the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade. These stories are all worth our careful focus and attention. These stories have further brought out the rising polarization that dominates the political and church landscapes. We divide ourselves based on class, political beliefs, and theological perspectives. It is hard to find middle ground.
As we know, polarization has been around a long time. The Corinthian Church was deeply divided in the First-Century world. The Apostle Paul was heavily involved in efforts to bring harmony and peace. Problems included claims of spiritual superiority and sexual misbehavior. When Paul writes that “the greatest of these is love” in 1 Corinthians 13:13, he is not writing about love between two people. He is writing about the love that needs to be present so people can get along and work together. It also needs to be said that polarization and conflict are not necessarily the same thing. As Holly Taylor Coolman, a theology professor at Providence College, has shared in numerous articles, conflict can be resolved satisfactorily if it’s done the right way. Polarization means that two sides face each other with no other options. Each side increasingly turns inward demanding a deeper commitment.
While I certainly don’t have answers to the struggles in our world today, I would like to offer two related thoughts. For starters, we need to “become comfortable with being uncomfortable.” We tend to spend significant amounts of time with people who look, act, and think like us. We would better ourselves if we could get outside our normal circles. This will allow us to listen to what others have to say. And of course, we need to listen to understand and not simply respond.
Secondly, we need to “find common ground.” In our United Methodist Church, I have differences of opinion with many of my colleagues on the issues of the day, but I also realize we have so much in common too. Might we lift up our common bonds as a starting point!
I hope and pray we can move forward as a people. God works through us to make a difference in the lives of others. Might we put our best foot forward!
Blessings to you, Scott