Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To Talk Again

February 28, 2017

Time was, when people of different opinions could talk about things without resorting to shouting matches, ad hominem attacks, or physical altercation. People would actually listen to each other; imagine that! It seems those days are gone for good. Whether it's the political arena, academia, or sometimes even in religious settings, the ability and willingness to debate, to listen, or to compromise is a relic of a bygone era.

One of the reasons for this is our eagerness to elevate our position to that of ultimate reality. When we do that, we cannot afford to lose, and when that happens debate descends into argument, and often, to violence. I'm no Marxist, but it seems to me that a lot of this behavior follows the money. With federal dollars attached to everything from researching the reasons dogs bark to financing sex change operations, the ordinary stuff of life takes on an importance beyond reason. We cannot afford to lose, lest we lose the money. I know that sounds somewhat cynical, but it's how I see it.

Ideally, in order for people to come together, there will be a win-win scenario. Fact of the matter is, this rarely happens. The scales are weighted to one side or the other, at least in people's minds. So if we are to come together, one of us has to lose, even if it is ever so slightly. The greater the issue, the greater the disparity grows. Reconciliation is difficult business. We humans seem to prefer to live by 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' even if it results in  all of us winding up blind and toothless.

In my Scripture reading this morning, I came across the great Pauline statement that, "through Christ God reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation...For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no  sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Tucked in the middle of this great declaration of reconciliation is the means by which it is made possible: God didn't count our sins against us, but took them upon himself. They didn't just disappear; in order for us to be reconciled, God deliberately allowed the scales of justice to be tipped away from himself, taking the punishment we deserved and giving us the life we didn't deserve.

Reconciliation always works that way. It's the only way it can work. In some segments of the Black community are calls for whites to give reparations for the legacy of slavery. But how can that bring reconciliation? It only trades injustice today for the injustices of yesterday. Somewhere along the way, whether it be racism, economics, bigotry, or any other class of inequality, someone has to have the courage and the confidence as did Martin Luther King, Jr., to stand up and say, "I'll accept the inequality so there might be the possibility of reconciliation." The word for it is 'forgiveness,' and apart from it, there will never be reconciliation, in public or private life. Whenever I insist on getting all the good I want no matter what the cost to another, the foundation is laid for division, at home, at school, at work, or in public life.

The difficulty in all this is that it is the offended who must start the process. God didn't wait for us to say, "I'm sorry," before sending his Son to die in our place. We sinned against him, and he took the initiative to reconcile us. It is ever thus. I am grateful that he did so, and long for the day when we follow that example here on earth. I believe it can only happen when we first receive his forgiveness. In that divine forgiveness and there alone, is found the strength and willingness we need to offer it to others. With divine forgiveness, maybe we can forgive each other and learn to talk again.

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