Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
–1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
In the current craze of what is called fake news, we are challenged to test everything. Paul advised us to test everything in the first century. I do that all the time in my genealogy work. I read the probate of one of my 4th great grandfathers dated in December 1859. When I visited his gravesite, I noted his birthdate was July 15, 1860. I seriously doubt that the county probated his estate before he died. My guess is the headstone was placed several months after the death, and the engraver etched in the current year. That is not so much fake news, I doubt that anyone was trying to sway my thinking one way or the other, but it was wrong information.
My first supervisor with the then Department of Public Welfare once advised me that I needed to add the phrase, in my opinion, before or after I made a statement because in my conversational style I was so sure of myself, I sounded like I was quoting from the Bible. She was right because I always think I am right until objectively proven wrong. Had I visited the cemetery before the probate records I would have sworn my 4th great grandfather’s birthdate was July 15, 1860, which I now am just as sure is wrong.
I doubt I am as sure of myself as Paul was and it possibly took him three years to work out the challenge to his faith he encountered on that road to Damascus. He went from persecuting Christians as a devout Jew to being the leading missionary for Christ. It is hard to change particularly long-held concepts, but I take great hope in the example of Paul that we can change when the availability of new or different and compelling information becomes available.
Our world is in cultural chaos directly related to long-held beliefs about white privilege, the place of women in society, and sexual identity. Division results tearing the Body of Christ asunder. I believe people with other motives fuel the flame of this divisiveness to their ends, not God’s. A house divided against itself cannot stand. (See Matthew 12:22-28) Christ called us to oneness, and I believe that oneness is essential to the welcoming of the Kingdom of God. In my opinion, the first step to moving toward that oneness is truly accepting that God created all people in God’s image, and we must find ways to see the image of God in everyone and love them as the children of God they are.
The second step, even if it is a baby step, is to find the things on which we can agree. We then work together toward attaining them with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength letting the issues on which we may never agree lay fallow until we have completed the work on the things we hold in common. Such action requires us to leave the thorny issues that plague us to God. They are draining us of energy better spent on say addressing the needs of the least of these.
Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, open our eyes to see your image in everyone, open our hearts to love each person as your child. Open our minds to recognize the step we need to be taking to actualize your Kingdom in this world as we invest our energies in doing your will as one. Amen.
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved