sunglasses

So, it has been a while hasn’t it my bloggist chums? I hope and pray that you will have had a wonderful Easter, and not just because of a surfeit of chocolate.

I was listening to a ‘discussion’ on the radio today and was struck by how it was set up and the nature of the debate. The producer had clearly got two people with diametrically opposing views and decided to put them together with the expectation that it would create an interesting / entertaining / provocative piece of journalism. But actually all we got was people shouting over one another. When that happens I tend to turn off the radio or change channel – presumably not the effect that the producer intended.

sunglassesIt got me wondering why it is that when we have a debate or a discussion or a discernment process we become more polarised than a pair of sunglasses? Why do we always have to go with a ‘yes / no’ approach? Why can’t we hold things in creative tension rather than having to have a winner and a loser?

I was recently involved in a discussion where I actually found myself in agreement with both of the apparently polarised sides of the discussion. I didn’t want to disagree with either of them. But the process forced me to choose one over the other and I was left feeling dissatisfied.

At this point you may be dismissing me as indecisive or lacking backbone, and you may be right. (Or are you?) But ‘creative tension’ was a phrase that was offered to me when I was inducted into my first church team. It is something that I have appreciated when working alongside people throughout my life. I don’t have to agree with everything someone else believes to get along with them and in the discussing and discerning process of disagreeing agreeably something creative can emerge.

And before you dismiss me completely as someone who is need of therapy to help reconcile internal conflict my understanding of God enables me to hold apparently irreconcilable views in that creative tension. The Bible describes Jesus as being both fully human and fully God at the same time. The infinite and the finite in an apparently impossible paradox. And how can one beyond time enter time? And then there’s the events of Easter when the eternal one dies (and is resurrected) – how can eternity (no beginning nor end) end and begin again? God is simultaneously a God of justice and mercy… and there are so many more. He doesn’t seem to have any problem with paradoxes, and he leaves our small brains smoking as we try to comprehend them.

So why can’t we live with creative tension? It’s more difficult sometimes. It’s messier. It means that we have to be more considerate of other people. It means we have to accept that we don’t have all of the answers. It means that we can’t ‘win’. It means that we need to listen to one another. It means that we need to honour one another.

Is that so bad?

Of course there are times when we need to make yes/no decisions. In a church recently I was asked a question: “EU referendum, in or out?”

I thought for a moment, and then said, “Yes.”

Which may have been a cop-out, or it may have been an attempt at saying that it’s important to make a decision but that my view does not need to distance me from those who disagree. Just because a decision has to be made it does not have to polarise. Surely we can disagree agreeably.

And it’s important. I wonder if one of the reasons why people switch off from church is because they don’t like it when we shout over each other.

Be blessed, be a blessing

 

fence sitting is uncomfortable

I’ve been working on Sunday evening’s sermon, which will be on the second-half of Acts chapter 5. This is the occasion when the apostles were hauled in front of the religious authorities and so infuriated them with their teaching about Jesus that a majority of people there want to put them to death. However a Pharisee named Gamaliel intervened with these words: “If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

I have heard people speak in reverential and hushed tones about Gamaliel’s wisdom here. The prevented bloodshed by stating that there was a clear choice: either this Christianity lark was from God or it wasn’t. If it isn’t then it will fall apart in due course. If it is then you run the risk of offending the Almighty.

To an extent I think he did demonstrate wisdom because he had a sufficiently open mind to recognise that what was happening might be from God. But he also missed the glaringly obvious – if there is a clear choice then surely you have to come down on one side or the other, there is no room for fence sitting. Gamaliel wanted to have his cake and eat it (insert further clichés here, as appropriate).wood fence in nature 1

“Wait and see” is not a particularly adventurous or godly response when we are faced with a choice like the one before Gamaliel and Co. It is risk averse and lacks faith or discernment. Certainly we do not want to get it wrong and be on the anti-God side, but I have a sense that is God would much rather we made a stab at discerning his will and got it wrong than that we sit on the fence. When Jesus told the parable of the talents the servant who did nothing was the one who was castigated and it was his inactivity that was condemned.

This is not saying that we should not seek to discern God’s will. Exactly the opposite is true. But we should not be paralysed by fear of getting it wrong – he is a God of grace after all and will forgive us if we ask: 2nd chances are his stock in trade.

Sitting on the fence is uncomfortable at best and only really makes sense in jokes about what time it is when an elephant sits on your fence.*

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*Time to get a new one