April 03, 2008

Family Differences

The shouting echoed throughout the house, leading me to investigate. "What's going on?" I ask.

"I hate my brother!"


"Because he's a BRAT!"

Since the days of Cain and Abel, family members have fought with one another. Most of these battles are simply a part of growing up, and fade away as the family members mature. That's what parents hope for, anyway. However, as the story of Cain and Abel shows, they sometimes end tragically; or, in other cases, they may never end at all.

In the rural community where I used to live, there were two elderly women who were sisters. They lived in their own hosues, which were separated by a field.

At some point in the past, there was an argument. I know not what started the argument, only that it continued. Eventually, the two sisters stopped speaking. Instead, they spied on each other, peering through their windows and across the field. How many years had they been angry? I didn't know. I did know, though, that their failure to reach reconciliation made them miserable.

One time when I was out of town, a guest preacher, lacking sensitivity, angered several members of the congregation I was serving. Many conversations took place over the following weeks--some formal, some informal, some secret, and some open. A few members insisted that, in the controversy, everyone needed to agree with them. When that didn't happen, they left the church.

This did not mean that those who stayed were of one mind. As one elderly lady said to me, "We're a family. Family members have disagreements, but we're still a family." Her thoughts on the topic were the same as those who left (and different than my own), yet she believed that differences in the body of Christ should not lead to division. We can disagree, but we can all still gather around Christ's table.

A few weeks ago, an excerpt of a sermon by Jeremiah Wright made the news. It made a lot of people angry, especially if they only heard it out of context, or if they were unfamiliar with the rhetoric used in the African-American prophetic style of preaching. They began pressuring Barack Obama, one of Wright's parishioners, to denounce Wright and his preaching.

Instead, Obama said that even though he disagreed with Wright's comments, he could not denounce him completely. Family members disagree, he said. But we're still family.

I admire that. It's much easier to stare across the field at those with whom we disagree than it is to work toward reconciliation. It's much easier to stick with those who think like we do than it is to embrace and learn from our differences.

One path leads to pain and resentment; the other, peace and understanding.

1 comment:

kathy a. said...

this is beautifully written. and so true.