This may come as a surprise to some folks, but I am a big Garth Brooks fan. Not the weird Chris Gaines alter ego phase, but, for the most part, if Garth Brooks sang it, I like it.
One of my favorite Garth Brooks songs is The Dance, a song that discusses the painful end of a relationship and proclaims that he’s glad he didn’t know the way the relationship would end, otherwise, he may not have experienced the beauty of it. :air snaps: Deep stuff, Garth.
This is country music philosophy at its best and begs the question to all who hear, “if you knew how things were going to pan out in the future, would it change your behavior now”?In a time and place of such divisiveness and partisanship, a time when (and this list is not exhaustive) you can lose friends over: how you feel about NFL players kneeling for the national anthem, gun control, the President of the United States, who should and should not be married; how can we ever find any way of healing the great divide in our nation? The answer to this question is Jesus, of course (duh), and, surprisingly Garth Brooks.
Let’s revisit that awesome Garth Brooks song. If we knew how things were going to pan out in the future, would it affect your behavior now? Let me pose the question a different way (+ Jesus). If you knew that the love that God has for you through Christ was the same love that God has for that person you can’t stand on Facebook and, even more surprising, God calls both of you to experience God’s radical community of grace, forgiveness, and love now and forever, would it change how you saw and interacted with them now? It would, right? So, go on and do that.
Problem solved. Everybody just do this and we’re all in good shape. Facebook will now be free of comment thread wars, Instagram will be free of hateful memes targeted at that family member that irks you, we’ll even be able to make Twitter kind again (was that too on the nose?). Pretty easy. Thank you, Jesus and Garth.
I know what you’re thinking. I know these words may seem dismissive of the hurt caused by instances of folks drawing stark lines in the sand on issues that compromise some’s deep ideological convictions or even their personhood. That’s not what I am getting it. It’s ok to disagree. I have my own convictions regarding all the aforementioned issues of division and believe that it’s important to present these opinions in light of my own life experience and unique position as a pastor (I urge others to do likewise).
I know communities for whom words and beliefs and tweets and legislation compromise their very personhood. Should they speak out against those who would compromise their place within the human family? Yeah, for sure. What’s not ok, however, is to see those for whom we disagree with as enemies to hate, things devoid of the same Creator’s mark that we ourselves bear. It’s ok to disagree. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to insert an “eye roll” emoji in a comment thread. That’s ok. We can’t let our disagreements lead us to hate the one (or group of ones) we disagree with. Disagreement does not have to illicit hate. But how?
Maybe if, in the midst of all the shouting and grandstanding, we heard the still small voice calling us all, you and that person who you can’t believe affirms that on social media, to be with God and one another in God’s radical community of love through Jesus Christ, it would quiet our tones from a shout to a gentle voice.
Maybe if we recognized that we are next to people with wildly different opinions than us as we dine at Christ’s table, we could muster the courage to draw close to those people in fellowship now.
Maybe if, in this context of winning and losing, we were able to see that God calls both the winners and (often especially) the losers God’s children, we could build bridges and converse with civility rather than hurling our opinions over the walls of our hearts with closed ears and shut eyes.
Maybe if, in a world full of so much discord and division, we were able to see that, in the end, through God’s grace, God will call (as God already calls) together democrats and republicans and kneelers and standers (and every other point of division in our world) and we’ll be able to see those who are on the other side of whatever line that is drawn as children of God, we could treat one another with love and compassion and grace.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls each of us to step out from behind the walls of our factions and join him at his table, a place where dehumanization and hatred have no seat, but where we get to sit with our fellow sisters and brothers in communion with the one who loves us better than we love ourselves and others. This is why it’s so good to celebrate communion with regularity, Christ’s table gives us a glimpse of what is to come and the possibilities for reconciliation in the here and now.
The hope of sitting with someone who we disagree with at Christ’s table in glory is both our hope and promise. That’s the way (as Garth says) “this ends” and “will go”, a time when children of God get to fully recognize the love God has for themselves and others. How will this affect the way we interact with folks who we disagree with in the here and now? If we know we will have to love them eventually, why wait?