When are hearts are at war, we not only invite failure, we invest in it.
The Arbinger Institute, The Anatomy of Peace
I am grateful for the transitory calm following an election. It takes time to know how effective newly elected and returning representatives will be, but there is an instantaneous relief in the cessation of yard signs, attack ads, and the rest.
The book The Anatomy of Peace presents an extended dialogue between an Imam, a Rabbi, and the parents of teenagers entering into a two-month long drug treatment program. These parents come from all sorts of places: veterans, CEOs, landscapers, and more, but they are united by their care for their children. They are also united in their inability to get through to their children and connect with them in a way that leads to sustained sobriety and healing.
One of the main characters, Lou, struggles with the facilitators of this workshop. He insists that he is right, he has the facts, he knows what needs to happen, and if only his son would shut up and listen then everything would be better. He is a sympathetic character for many of us, perhaps. The Imam and Rabbi facilitating the workshop help him to see how it is possible to be correct and yet also wrong in how we relate to one another.
We live in a time of deep division and conflict politically, culturally, and even theologically. This election was loud but is nothing compared to the cacophony 2020 will bring. How are we as disciples of Jesus Christ with different political understandings going to demonstrate relationships which go beyond who is right or wrong? How will we push into the deeper matters of how we will continue to live together through conflict and disagreement?
I was reading 2 Corinthians this morning after spending time in The Anatomy of Peace. I was struck by the reflective way Paul moves through this letter. He is connected to his audience and sees them as human beings and not as problems to be solved or corrected. There is this section from chapter 6 into 7 worth spending some time with containing nothing short of a call to relationship. “Corinthians, we have spoken openly to you, and our hearts are wide open. There are no limits to the affection we feel for you.” (2 Cor. 6:11-12) How different is this from polarized discourse between parties in disagreement – wide open hearts and unlimited affection?
He continues a little further down “make room in your hearts for us. We didn’t do anything wrong to anyone. We didn’t ruin anyone. We didn’t take advantage of anyone.” (2 Cor. 7:2) This begins to sound a little defensive. Maybe there are echoes of a recent disagreement at work or at home in this sort of discourse. Yet it continues with more praise and language of connection: “I’m terribly proud of you. I’m filled with encouragement. I’m overwhelmed with happiness while in the middle of our problems.” (2 Cor. 7:4)
What a remarkable orientation to relationships. Can we learn to be happy and blessed in the middle of our challenges and disagreements? Can we listen and love, not to move away from the things we believe and hold dear but rather to hold them higher and alongside the perspectives of others? The alternative to relationship is brokenness. I don’t believe that is God’s plan for us. Let us pray for peace and understanding, especially with those with whom we disagree the most.
Grace and Peace,