EMAIL DEVOTIOn Pentecost 15
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ (Revelation 21:5)
My, oh my, does our culture ever thrive on conflict. Some days I wonder if people wake from sleep filled with anger only to then proceed through their day doing little more than looking for outlets for that rage. Our automobiles are cathartic vessels for this anger, as are newspaper letters to the editor, and community forums, and call-in talk-radio shows, and Facebook posts, and other digital platforms. There are no simple answers to hate crimes and terrorism and domestic violence. But our obsession with anger, and our apparently utter inability to find healthy outlets for it can only serve as fuel for the fire.
The community of believers formed around the teachings of Jesus, has never been absent of conflict. Where passion is present and people see the stakes as high, there will always be places where we will have differences of perspective and opinion. The Church has never denied this. And in ways that are eerily similar to the culture at large, the church has not always engaged those differences of opinion in healthy manners. We are a collection of fallen humans, too. But the church by the nature of its core message does have another option. Scholars and spiritualist have often called this “the third way.” It is an attempt to reconcile opposing views in a way that recognizes that win/loss polarities rarely result in positive outcomes. The winning party does not benefit from opposing concepts that would enhance their position. The act of “losing” cultivates more anger, and thus even more distance from the one from whom they find themselves estranged. Win-loss scenarios are typically lose-lose prospects.
Thus the idea of a third way arises, which finds a different resolution, which incorporates both opposing poles into a greater potential reality. Jesus modeled this in his ministry, especially when answering what appeared to be no-win questions from religious leaders, sometimes concerning paying taxes to Caesar, or judging adulterers, or working on the Sabbath. St. Paul lifts up paradoxical words and yokes them to each other like male & female, clean & unclean, law and gospel … and helps us to transcend the limitations of just one image thinking. Lutheran theology is rooted in this process, what scholars call the “dialectic.” Whatever you call it, modeling these kinds of interactions after Jesus own teaching and life results in something “new.” As the Book of Revelation reminds us, that “newness” is God’s work among us.
So this week, take a risk. Examine a win-lose scenario in your life, and consider whether there is a “third way.” Remember that this is not an act of compromise, where opposing parties simply agree to live, each with a part of the truth, but with no complete resolution. This is a reconciling act that is filled with the presence of the Spirit, and which brings about a new way, which transcends both of the previous positions. The historic Church sometimes made decisions by consensus … remaining in dialogue and discussion until they could find this new “third way.” In such situations, they were able to conclude with words of blessing … “it seems good to the holy Spirit and to us.” As you pray and meditate this week, may the Spirit be good to you and helpful as you consider relationships that at the moment are not what you think they should be.