“….by revelation there was made known to me the mystery…” (Eph.3:3)
It is tempting, yes, inevitable, that we will gravitate to the folks who champion our opinions.
Much is made about the fragmentation of the body of Messiah, sometimes too much.
It is not necessarily a bad thing to have groups who gather together to discuss, argue and even celebrate their distinctiveness from others. The trouble lies not in distinction, but in separation.
How do I cultivate a spirit of acceptance towards others who look, sound, and even think much different than I? Perhaps one place to start is by being thankful for their existence.
Yes. We do, in fact, need each other. Even when we disagree.
The Talmud has within its pages a curious passage in the tractate called Berakhot (meaning “Blessings”):
“The sages taught in a Tosefta: One who sees multitudes o Israel recites: Blessed…Who knows all secrets. Why is this? He sees a whole nation whose minds are unlike each other and whose faces are unlike each other, and He Who knows all secrets, God, knows what is in each of their hearts. The Gemara relates: Ben Zoma once saw a multitude of Israel while standing on a stair on the Temple Mount. He immediately recited: Blessed…Who knows all secrets and Blessed…Who created all these to serve me.
Explaining his custom, he would say: How much effort did Adam the first man exert before he found bread to eat: He plowed, sowed, reaped, sheaved, threshed, winnowed in the wind, separated the grain from the chaff, ground the grain into flour, sifted, kneaded, and baked and only thereafter he ate. And I, on the other hand, wake up and find all of these prepared for me. Human society employs a division of labor, and each individual benefits from the service of the entire world. Similarly, how much effort did Adam the first man exert before he found a garment to wear? He sheared, laundered, combed, spun and wove, and only thereafter he found a garment to wear. And I, on the other hand, wake up and find all of these prepared for me. Members of all nations, merchants and craftsmen, diligently come to the entrance of my home, and I wake up and find all of these before me” (Talmud, Berakhot 58a, Koren Steinsaltz edition, emphasis mine).
In a day of political and religious tension, it is important to remember that the man or woman whom you are tempted to denigrate or criticize (often for good reason) is someone who serves a vital, though perhaps unrecognized, role in our lives.
This week is the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving. It celebrates an event in which two people groups so very different from one another, the Native Americans and the European settlers, came together in the bond of peace for a common cause: celebrating life and, as it were, survival.
Despite the shameful future of the white man’s dealings with the Indians, (it should be remembered also, in today’s culture of revisionist history, that most Indians were not as gracious as the group at Plymouth Plantation), a legacy which is impossible to defend, we would do well to remember that it is entirely possible to put such racial memory aside for the sake of peace.
In this season of thanksgiving, perhaps we should remember to be thankful for our enemies. And to pray for them, even.
After all, we share the same soil.