I went to a men’s breakfast at our church this past Saturday and a friend asked me a question that I didn’t really know how to answer – how can we heal and overcome the deep divisions that have been caused by opinions on the pandemic and the vaccines. I stumbled in trying to find an answer and eventually said that I didn’t really know. As I am no longer a pastor, I don’t have to know everything, and I can actually admit to my lack of knowledge. But I have been troubled by that question. It hasn’t left me alone. For that reason, I have decided to take a short break from the theological question of what is God like and move into this ethical question. I have some thoughts, but I am counting on you to help me out. Have you encountered any friendship or family breakdowns because of differing opinions on the twin problems of the pandemic and vaccines? How have you been able to heal those rifts? What are some things you have learned through these conflicts?
First some general thoughts. I had posted some thoughts on how we can accept people with whom we disagree. I used the pandemic as an illustration of the differing opinions we are encountering. How do engage with people whose opinions are almost diametrically opposed to the ones we hold? Too many of us see these conversations as contests to be won or lost and since my opinion is the correct one, I have to win. These are often conversations that create far more heat than light. Too often we no longer are able to hear each other, and we seem to rant and get angrier the longer the conversation goes on. I suggested that we actually listen to the other person no matter how deeply we disagree with them. Since we have twice as many ears as we have mouths, maybe we should listen at least twice as much as we speak. I seem to be agreeing with James here. James 1:19-20 (NIV) “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
First, for there to be reconciliation both parties must want it. If only one person desires reconciliation it will never occur. We can forgive whatever offences we feel we have suffered, but unless there is a mutual desire for reconciliation, it cannot occur. We have to be prepared to accept that some relationships will never be mended. Some friendships may be irrevocably lost.
Second, reconciliation must be approached with humility. I have to affirm, sometimes over and over that I might just be wrong. I need to deal with this question, “Which is more important, being right or preserving our friendship?”
Third, are there things for which I should apologize? Did I do things that made the situation worse? Do I need to ask forgiveness for either my actions or my attitudes?
Now I want to put the ball into your court – what advice would you give someone that is suffering because of fractures in relationships because of differences of opinion on either the pandemic or the vaccines? What have you done? Has it worked? I would like this to be the beginning of a conversation, so as you read the comments of others, I would like you to also respond. This is an extremely difficult topic, but in the meantime Keep the Son in Your Eyes.