These lies focus on who we come to believe ourselves to be based on the lies that society tells us about others and ourselves. The lies are a means of dividing our society by factors that are a part of what others see in us, not who we are. It is interesting that there is a sixth lie that is not included in the series but perhaps Henri Nouwen did not think this lie to be as critical as the others did. That lie is, “I am my religious affiliation.” I am pained when we divide people we meet based on their spiritual beliefs. It is actually ironic. We could look at how different religions separate their adherents from others based on who or what they see as God, or how they choose to worship. Those are big categories and are difficult to overcome. By the way, they should not affect the way we see or treat others. I want us to take a second to look at a more pointed method of separation based on religion. We, within the Christian religions, separate ourselves on practice, doctrine, social matters (liberal/conservative).
Often we question others beliefs when we really do not even understand our own because we do not really understand our own. We do not know what a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, or Seventh-Day Adventist is “supposed” to believe. It’s sad to me that we often split hairs over method of baptism—sprinkling or dunking, infant or adult, method of communion—intinction or receiving the elements separately, literal or objective presence, and many other issues. These have been the issues of murders and other atrocities. However, we can close the circle even narrower to within denominations and then even to congregations. The current problems in our own denomination centers around six verses in the Bible, some in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament. We are on the brink of dividing a Denomination and congregations over this because we see differently. One group says the other does not hold the scripture as authoritative, the other says we do but not literally. So we have a disagreement on something...I am shocked!
I am shocked because we have so many more things in common than things we do not. We are standing on the world stage and we are being watched and noticed regardless of who is correct. We are all losing; Christianity as a whole is losing. We need to find a place to live together and disagree with each other. At least this is more important than the color of the carpet. (Yes, congregations have divided over carpet color.) There are issues that are important but none so important as to call names or stop the conversation; continuing is usually harder said that done. It seems we have become so sure of our beliefs that we are afraid if we listen to others we might lose our faith. If that is the case, our faith is not very deep or strong. In addition, we cannot expect anyone to listen to our views if we refuse to listen to theirs. So here we are as a denomination, a nation, and a world divided, angry and broken. We are not living in a house by the side of the road realizing we are just like everyone else: good, bad, weak, strong, wise, foolish, and HUMAN. We need to hear the words of Christ. An expert in the law asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life and turned the question on the man. The man answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV) Jesus affirmed his statement and then the man went further to ask who is my neighbor, an effort to trap Jesus. Jesus’ response was to tell the parable we know as the Good Samaritan. He ends his teaching by asking who this man’s neighbor was. If we want to bring people to Christ or even to our point of view, it is important that we respect them and see them as we are: broken and searching for the path we need to take for the next part of our journey.
So, anybody know where I can buy a house by the side of the road?
I love being your pastor.