By Pastor Vinnie Cappetta
"Vax Wars, Mask Wars and Learning to Delight in Each Other"
To Vax or not to Vax? To mask or not to mask? These two questions and others like them have done much to divide the Church all around the world.
The other day, a friend of mine was waxing eloquent on one of these COVID debates, and without realizing it, I started laughing quietly to myself. My friend noticed that I was laughing and for a moment they stopped talking and everyone who was listening froze. Was my friend offended? Was my friend going to dig into his position even further? I’ll come back to that story in a minute.
Why are things like COVID so divisive? Why is it that other Christians’ thoughts, feelings and opinions are such a burden to us?
Bonhoeffer answers, “It is the freedom of the other... that is a burden to Christians. The freedom of the other goes against Christians' high opinions of themselves, and yet they must recognize it (the freedom of the other). Christians could rid themselves of this burden by not giving other persons their freedom, thus doing violence to the personhood of others and stamping their own image on others.”
So I can try and stamp my own image (and opinions) on others or I can try something else which is to recognize the image of God stamped on them.
He continues, “But when Christians allow God to create God's own image in others, they allow others their own freedom. Thereby Christians themselves bear the burden of the freedom enjoyed by these other creatures of God.”
So if I allow for God’s image stamped on others, I must also bear the burden of that because it is at sometime going to go against my own way of thinking.
He continues, “…other's weaknesses and peculiarities…so sorely try our patience, and… produce the plethora of clashes, differences, and arguments between me and the other. Here, bearing the burden of the other means tolerating the reality of the other's creation by God--affirming it, and in bearing with it, breaking through to delight in it. -from Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Be honest…does COVID or some other issue have you “doing violence to the personhood of others and stamping your own image on them?” From what I have noticed, I am afraid some of us would have to answer “yes” to that one.
Back to the story of me laughing at my friend’s COVID rant…after an uncomfortable silence, my friend smiled at me, acknowledged that we have been friends for many years and recognized that I was laughing with them and not at them. This wasn’t the first time that my friend and I have had different opinions. This has happened many times over the years, but over time we have learned the art of delighting in one another even in our disagreements.
In John 13:34-35 Jesus taught, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Then He added, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If Jesus can love me when I am wrong so often, then certainly He can empower me to love and take delight in other Christians with whom I disagree. As the old song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
Ray Ortlund illustrates the impact of our love on the world, "We are the aroma of Christ to God… among those who are perishing" (2 CoI. 2:15). The emphatic words are of Christ. It is the strong scent of Christ that people detect when our churches are filled with the gospel. How amazing that they should experience Christ himself through us! We are so unlike him in so many ways. Still, his scent comes through. Even more wonderfully, we are "a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God" (NLT). -from The Gospel, Ray Ortlund
The world is watching how we treat one another; let us show them the love of Christ as we learn to delight in each other.