Today I want to look at what some would call a “meta-issue”. Neither content nor context, but the process we are using.
Over the past several weeks I have been amazed at this project. Amazed at the number of people reading it… at the number of people commenting… at the amazing diversity of readers, commentators, participants… and at the “fragrance of grace” that has perfused the commentary.
In case you are a “casual” or “intermittent” reader of The Postmodern Mystic, let me assure you… we do NOT all agree. Many of these commentators and the bloggers that cross-talk among our blogs come from extremely different traditions, worship in vastly different ways, and even differ on some generally hotly debated topics of theology.
And yet… it takes very little time indeed to sense the great sense of “amity”, “harmony”, “accord”, and “familiality” (not familiarity) that exists in these writings and among these opinionated disciples. (And believe me… we ARE “opinionated” disciples, indeed.)
So… if we’re all so opinionated, dedicated, fairly passionate… how does all the “amity” and “accord” come about? Well, obviously, the “textbook answer” is “the grace of God”, the “spirit of Christ”… all that. That’s a GOOD answer. That’s the RIGHT answer. But sometimes even a good and right answer, isn’t terribly helpful. My peculiar ministry, pastoral counseling, teaching, healing of heart… rests in my effort to take what is “good and right”, and find words to make it “helpful” and “pragmatic”.
For example: take the question… “How do I live a righteous life?” Answer: “Stop sinning.” See? True, good answer, right answer. Not necessarily helpful for most people. I myself have needed a bit more pragmatic structure to an answer to work for me. The ultimate answer I’ve found that helps ME (not to say it should work for you or anyone else), is “treat all people as the sacred children of God, fashioned in His image by His hand in His love”. Doing that seems to avoid most “sin” in my life, and address my challenge of righteous living.
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Now, I am manfully resisting the impulse to launch into a detailed essay about “one accord”. One of the most challenging passages of Scripture ENDS in what are among my very FAVORITE verses, describing the nature of Jesus and His relationship with the Father. But that same passage BEGINS with the most challenging and difficult verses that I have struggled with my whole life, let alone career…
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:1-11]
It’s this “regard for one another” thing… this defeat-of-the-ego thing… that so arrests my attention. It’s not to say that one’s own view is wrong, or another’s more right. This passage really treats such issues as irrelevant. It’s all in the relationship… it’s all in the context, not the content.
Ignatius of Loyola, in his manual of exercises for spiritual growth, sets out what he called a “Presupposition” as he opens his work, thus:
In order that both he who is giving the Spiritual Exercises, and he who is receiving them, may more help and benefit themselves, let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself.
Please bear in mind that Ignatius was writing in Spanish about 500 years ago, and some phrasing does not translate smoothly.
Anyway, I said I’m not going to prolong an essay here, so I shall not. But suffice it to say that one of the most difficult truths I’ve ever had to learn was that someone can disagree with me, even profoundly… and still be “right” because of their own experiences and understanding, without me necessarily being “wrong”.
Herein, I think, lies the mystery of the “amity” and “harmony” of this table and discussion. We all seem willing to grant respect to one another, to consider one another’s views as valuable as our own. In doing that, our words “give life” and “give value” to the other… rather than taking it away.
I work to bring this view into the everyday world around me, but it seems much easier when directly discussing God and obvious matters of spirit.
Anybody else out there find this to be so? Or is it the opposite? lol. Is it easier to be “calm and understanding” in matters of “the world”, and more adrenalin-filled when dealing with discussions of God?