Common ground

God looked at what people were doing at Babel and split us up. Unity is very close to God's heart – yet He knew that unless our hearts are near to Him, our striving to excel (a great strength) would become a great weakness.

He longs for unity in his body, but unity is not sameness. God is incredibly diverse – far more diverse than humans can ever imagine. He loves orderliness and creativity equally – there's no paradox for Him – yet I'm realising paradox is the only way to see more aspects of Him from our perspective.

Years ago a friend converted to orthodoxy. As if that wasn't enough, when I challenged her she was able to give seemingly reasonable answers to key questions. I didn't convert, but it was the start of an ongoing journey.

I used to go past a Catholic school on the way to the “normal” school. It was usually just my sister and me passing a group of Catholic students. They made our trip less than joyous. When I became a Christian I eventually went flatting with an atheist, a Catholic and a charismatic. The Catholic came to our group (18-30+), so I eventually went to a mid-week Bible study at St Mary's of the Angels.

I was the odd one out – the only one who took a Bible and ventured answers when the priest asked questions. The priest greatly surprised me (last I heard he'd gone as a missionary to the Amazon). It wasn't just that he had a sense of humour. When we studied the Lord's supper, he had two pages of closely typed foolscap cyclostyled notes – really good stuff. When he got to the last paragraph (transubstantiation) he said (without looking at me directly) not everyone accepted this, but that's what the Catholic church teaches. I've never been able to understand how some people stay Catholic despite their apparent sensibility. A few years ago I discovered Henri Nouwen – another Catholic – so rich.

The same applies to Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Charismatics, Pentecostals and the far too many I've missed. Like every institution (education, politics, health, business etc) the good is so often  Each one has things to learn from, but as long as they limit themselves to their little area and don't keep growing, they fall so far short of the God who calls them to Himself. The pattern has repeated itself continuously - people find a "new" (an old one which has been missing for too long) truth, but usually fail to take the next one so God gives it to others.

That's not to say they have nothing to contribute today. Tom Wright has come up in discussion recently, and his insights have been valuable to me (although it was a US Charismatic who introduced me to his way of thinking). I noted with interest Tom took issue with another Anglican I appreciate – Adrian Plass. In this case, I tend to agree with Tom over Adrian – but I have learned from both.

I was challenged by God concerning a well-known Kiwi “Bishop”. Reluctant as I was, after doing some research and finding some unexpected results, I've had to modify my blanket negative opinions. He too often says and does things I doubt Jesus would do – but he does some other things (never reported by mainstream media) which Jesus is likely to do.

We only have to look at the US political situation to see how biased reporting can be. As a non-voter, I was relieved Clinton did not win (John Pilger's work showed how much worse things were than I'd seen). Trump has done some good things – and some unbelievably silly things. Ask my brother-in-law (I haven't) how he feels about his following Obama's decision not to label as genocide Turkeys slaughter of his people (Armenians).

Our spiritual enemies work hard at dividing us. The cruel aspect of this is there are more things that should unite us than divide us. My mind goes back to the leader of a group we were in. She encouraged us to focus on our common ground and celebrate our differences. Sadly when we tried to nail down our common ground, there wasn't a single thing we could all agree on.

Ellen showed when subjected to considerable vitriol from people who'd normally be thought of as "her people" (over her association with Bush) that we should still respect people with whom we disagree. There might be exceptions - Bonhoeffer wrestled with his conscience before deciding Hitler needed to die. It's certainly not always natural or comfortable - some people seem to make it extremely hard - but we should try to see the good in people.

That doesn't mean agreeing with them - it would indeed be a boring world if we all thought the same. Agreement does not equal respect.

 

Last Modified

Last modified: 05 December 2020.