Sunday, July 27, 2008

Happy Though Disengaged

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

Matthew 5.9

Getting Beside Ourselves

In America, the general rule for pleasant conversation advises against two subjects: politics and religion. This counsel isn’t universal. In France, for example, politics and religion (and sex, of course) are fair game; mention money, however, and everything screeches to a halt. Politics and religion pose problems for Americans because they entail taking sides. Once that happens, the discussion shifts from philosophical issues to who’s right and who’s wrong. I know not one American who likes being wrong.

It’s easy to agree to disagree on mundane matters. On the other hand, when we clash on deeply personal issues, we hang on to absolutes. Lacking final authority to judge, we can’t say with confidence we’re right or our opponents are wrong. Only God has that power. Now we get beside ourselves, trying to prove what we think by how we are. I’m right because I’m holier, more patriotic, and so on. Our footing slips and we slide down the proverbial slope.

Stay Off the Toboggan!

Assume we are right, our behavior is woefully wrong. We fly downhill at breakneck speed, accepting dubious ideas we pick up during our slide as truth. In the gay debate, homophobic believers come away convinced homosexuals ignore God’s law, defy cultural norms, undermine family values, etc. Gay advocates view their Christian opponents as hypocritical, bigoted, heartless, paranoid, etc. Neither could be more wrong.

It’s hard to stay off the toboggan, but if you genuinely love others as Christ commanded, the slope loses its appeal. You see yourself in them, and understand the fear and arrogance driving them. Refusing to slide alongside them isn’t an admission of defeat. It’s victory through disengagement.

Saying Our Piece vs. Making Peace

Without two sides, there’s no conflict. That’s the big message tucked inside Christ’s message: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5.44-45)

What’s more crucial—proving our point or proving ourselves? The second we commit to saying our piece, we lose all hope of making peace. Like it or not, winning arguments won’t help us win God’s favor or bring us happiness. Jesus says peacemakers will be called God’s children. Let’s learn to be happy through disengagement and leave the fighting to somebody else’s kids.

The Slippery Slope...

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