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By KEITH ANDERSON
I used to ask myself this question when I was new to the ministry. Why was it so hard to agree on the basics of faith — how to live a faithful life of following Christ and loving one’s neighbor? Or agreeing on next year’s spending plan for ministry? Or on a host of other issues that arise in the church, family, work or community?
Well, after years of serving as a pastor, many hours of prayer, reflection and conversation, it occurred to me that this is about as unrealistic an expectation as one might have whenever people come together in groups. The truth is, we are all different, and this by design. We grow up seeing and experiencing the world from a unique and personal perspective. And until we reach a certain age of maturity, we just might begin to imagine that other people have a different perspective and set of expectations than our own. So that coming together, whether at church, work or even in one’s family, there will always be the rubbing of elbows, degrees of discord — if not outright arguments on really important matters such as politics, and the like.
But here’s the deal, despite the variety of personalities and unique human experiences, there is a clue as to how we might all get along. It’s a matter of faith — faith in Christ. It’s right there in the earliest days of the church. It’s amazing how many conflicts there are, one after another, as Jews and Greeks, young and old, male and female, slaves and free, educated and simple, gathered together in Christian community. If ever we could imagine diversity in a group of people, it would be in these early churches. St. Paul did an amazing work shaping their new lives together as the Body of Christ, Christ incarnate — in the flesh, in that place and time. The world had never seen anything like it. In fact, it’s still a marvel to this day.
Paul’s secret? Simple. Keep your focus on Christ. In Christ, everything looks different. In Christ, your personality, your goals, your experiences take second fiddle to the health and well being of the larger group. Paul writes: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view … for if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, look, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
The idea of living a new life “in Christ” was so important to Paul that of all his letters, he used the phrase almost 90 times! So the next time you’re together with family, perhaps rubbing shoulders and sensing discord arise, consider the mystery of Christ’s presence in your midst. Try to see the gift of the other person’s perspective. How might each of you bring something better to the greater good? Consider what Christ sees in each of you, and focus on that.
And may your holidays be filled with blessings of peace … in Christ!
The Rev. Keith Anderson is pastor of First Lutheran Church
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.