Presented by The Susquehanna Parish Ministry Group
By Edwin Lacy
In a recent Presbytery Gathering, our General Presbyter, the Rev. Dr. Jackie Taylor, made the statement (and I’m paraphrasing here) that “We need to make sure our intention of inclusivity extends to those who hold differing views than our own, especially toward the more conservative members of our presbytery.” And she added the reminder that “inclusivity” does not mean “tolerance.”
The Susquehanna Parish Ministry Group is trying to follow Jackie’s lead – to be more inclusive. We want to be more engaged across theological and ideological lines that tend to be so divisive. We want to quit feeling contempt toward people who don’t agree with us. We want to return to a time when people on opposing sides of an issue still had the ability (and desire) to have respectful discussions and meaningful conversations. But how?
Actually, Jesus gave us the answer two thousand years ago. In his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:43-47, he taught:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same?
Simple to say, but really, really hard to do – like a lot of what Jesus taught. But this doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to try – and try hard.
Harvard Business Professor, Arthur Brooks, has taken a stab at applying this principal to our present situation, i.e. the great American political divide. In his book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt, Brooks lays out a strategy and rationale for changing the way we interact around “hot-button” issues. It’s a pathway to friendlier relationships, deeper understanding and, quite frankly, a more peaceful life. The elders and ministers of the Susquehanna Parish Ministry Group have participated in a book study on Love Your Enemies and are now engaged in “practicing” the principles Brooks presents through intentional group conversations around divisive topics. We feel better already!
To whet your appetite, I’d like to leave you with a short video and an article from the Atlanta Magazine. The video is an amazing interview that Brooks offers as an example of what can happen when we put our prejudices aside and lovingly listen to each other. The article is an even more amazing account of lives changed through patience, kindness and love. Enjoy!
Xernona Clayton and Calvin Craig
Hawk Newsome at a MOAR Trump Rally