Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, 2 Samuel 17:24-18:8, Acts 22:30-23:11, Mark 11:12-26
Paul was a shrewd man. When he was arrested and brought before the council in Jerusalem, he noticed some of them were Pharisees like himself, and others were Sadducees. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, spirits, and angels but the Sadducees did not. This was an ongoing point of contention. By mentioning that he himself was a Pharisee on trial concerning the resurrection of the dead, Paul accomplished a couple things.
First, he managed to gain some sympathy from the Pharisees. Instead of outright condemning him, they began to wonder “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” Second, he moved the focus off himself and onto the ongoing theological quarrel between the two sects. Their dissension became so heated that the tribune, fearing for Paul’s life, had him removed to the barracks.
For such supposedly smart men, the council members were easily led into unnecessary conflict. Maybe that’s because we are so easily swayed by people who we believe to be part of our “tribe” and so suspicious of people who are not. We tend to assume friends and colleagues who agree with us on one controversial issue – abortion, for instance – will also agree with us other issues – such as same-sex marriage. When we discover they disagree, it may be difficult to reconcile. Conversely if someone disagrees with us on one topic we may presuppose they will disagree with us on others, and when they don’t we have to adjust our thinking about them. If we are unable or unwilling to make those adjustments, we can end up turning a blind eye to the faults of those we initially agree with, and an equally blind eye to the virtues of people we first disagree with.
The good news is, we aren’t required to pigeon-hole anyone.
We don’t have to divide into tribes, and we don’t have to agree on every point to be one body. Yitzhak Rabin said, “You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies.” If we are to be blessed as peacemakers, loving through disagreement is an absolute necessity.
For thoughts on today’s reading from Mark, see Faith and Figs.
Comfort: Agreement is not necessary for peace.
Challenge: Watch, listen to, or read something from a point of view you generally disagree with, but listen for points where you might be able to agree.
Prayer: Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:2)
Discussion: When is the last time you found yourself surprised to agree with a person or group?
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