Who is Your “Other”?

[Giving Up Violence for Lent]

Guest Post: Debbie Manning

Debbie Manning joins our conversation on Giving Up Violence for Lent and Love of Enemies, sharing how her community pursues reconciliation between the LGBT community and the church, and challenges us to know our ‘others.’

Non-violent resistance and love of enemy is the work of reconciliation, the work of peacemaking, the work of Jesus Christ.

Blessed are the peacemakers.  A couple of thousand years ago, Jesus stood atop a mountain commanding his followers to be people of peace. Peacemaking comes out of the belief that we are each created in the image of God and that our God is loving, free and just. Peacemakers work on behalf of God, out of love for God and others to bring HIS order to the world – peace and reconciliation for all people.

We’re messy and broken people, living in a messy and broken world. We have a history of choosing behavior that disrupts God’s intended harmony of peace, justice and freedom for all. We live in a world where people hate “the other” – those with differing views, opinions or convictions. Sometimes our “other” is a non-Christian or even a Christian with differing views. How do we as followers of Jesus work toward reconciliation?

One Sunday night each month, a group of us gather for what we call “Living in the Tension”. Our hope is to be a safe space to build bridges between the church and the LGBT community. It’s really hard. We come from different places and different perspectives. We are gay, straight, transgender.  We’re conservative, liberal, uncertain.  We’re churched, un-churched, anti-church. We are often each other’s “other”. But what we all agree on is that each and every person is created and loved by God. As different as we each might be, we show up each month with a commitment to staying in the conversation; and that’s what we do. We are committed to honesty, dialogue and listening to each other. We are committed to being a safe place to “wrestle respectfully” together in this sensitive, personal conversation on the issue of the church and the LGBT. So each month, we get together, hear each other’s story in an effort to know and understand one another so that we may live and love like Jesus. It’s hard work. But it gives us all hope.

Jesus says: turn the other cheek, go another mile or bless those who curse you. I wonder if the crowd on the hill was ready to hear what Jesus said, how he called them to live. This is radical. Are we ready and willing?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of peace and reconciliation, not hate, threats and violence.  Jesus was non-violent and did not advocate at any time hate, retribution or revenge. This didn’t mean that Jesus didn’t voice his opinion on divisive issues or stand by his convictions – just the opposite. Jesus knew his message would bring dissent, but he calls us to dissent peacefully.

How are we to be a part of this movement of reconciliation? I think that it takes courage…

1.Who is your “other”?

Answer that question honestly.

2. Seek to know and understand “the other.”

Be willing to have the conversation; be a listener. So often, we feel the need to convince and change others to our way of seeing things. Instead of setting out to give your opinion, set others straight or tell the truth as “I” see it, live out God’s love.

3. Find places to bridge

We can be peaceable without giving up our convictions. That’s what we do in the Living in the Tension gatherings.

All of the above takes help from the Holy Spirit and requires a whole lot of humility.

Micah 6:8:What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

One of my favorite theologians, Stanley Grenz says this, “The biblical gospel focuses on reconciliation with God, of course. But reconciliation is a social reality, for we are in right standing with God only as we are likewise being brought into right relationship with others.” There is nothing in there about being like-minded.

This means being people of peace in our church, our communities and in our families. That means being peacemaker’s in the Middle East conflict, our politics here at home, the gay and lesbian issue, the conflict with the next-door neighbor, and the broken relationship with a friend or family member.

So, who is your “other”? Have the conversations, get to know the “other” and listen to their stories.  It changes everything.

 

 

Debbie Manning is an associate pastor of Congregational Care for Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota.

 

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