We are all tempted to build community around the people we like and agree with. After all how do we build community while in conflict?
Christ took the opposite approach and invited into his inner circle: tax collectors, harlots, sinners, rich and poor, jews and, God forbid, Samaritans. The community he created wasn’t governed by religious rules or social conformity, but by forgiving and comforting. It was unafraid and loving.
Every community must allow for differences, tolerate uncertainties, and respect the dignity of the human being. Each member must be given the opportunity to be independent, change, and grow. Envision a community that lives together in its diversity. Rather than living apart in bunkers of faith and rules, imagine a community that is boundless in its welcome to others.
Reconciliation doesn’t mean cutting off the branches of disagreement, and it also doesn’t mean our disagreements will end. It means we will remain in community in spite of our differences. We treat each other with mutual respect and seek out common purpose. Standing in love with those with whom we disagree is not a popular concept these days. It seems we live in a time of escalating conflicts, deep cynicism, and increasing isolation. ( I admit to an occasional thought of escaping to a mountain or a beach with no TV or news.) Standing with those with whom we disagree requires courage, but in so doing we grow together in love. We set an example of being open, forgiving, and being faithful. In the end, we will not be measured by how right we are, but by how loving we are.
How do you wish to be measured?