A favorite movie has a scene about an embittered man named Ronnie explaining the cause of his bitterness. It had to do with a meat slicer. One day he was slicing some meat when his brother Johhny came in to talk. During the conversation, Ronnie became distracted and sliced off his hand. Tragically, his fiance broke off the engagement wishing not to marry a one-handed groom. He lost his hand, his bride, and his happiness.
Years later, when Johnny became engaged, he sent his fiance to invite Ronnie to the wedding. The brothers had not spoken in five years due to the slicer indecent, and her conversation with Ronnie did not go well. There was “Bad Blood” between the brothers.
Ronnie couldn’t be happy for Johnny. He said, “Johnny has his hand, he has his bride, and I should be so happy for my brother? Where is my hand? Where is my bride?”
It’s a good scene and in no way was grisly; no fluids were lost in the making of the film. It’s a romantic comedy about the ups and downs of a New York Italian family. It’s funny, sweet, and heartwarming.
In the past two Sundays, I have delivered sermons on fractured relationships due to political differences; and other differences that have torn friendships and families apart. They were not easy to give.
The religious, racial, and political climate in our country has been quite stormy. We appear to be at an all-time low for patience and tolerance. We have traded empathy and acceptance for judgment and condemnation. I know, not all of us, just most of us. We are tired and beat down. Not our best.
Perhaps the most disagreeable levels have been forged on Social Media outlets where we have taken sides, joined the fray, got down into the mud, and aligned ourselves with those who think as we do. We listen to no other voice but our own and to those who say the same things over and over again.
Is that the echo chamber?
We have argued and disagreed about Covid-19, about masks, about Presidential candidates and political platforms. Many of us have felt awkward about the racial divides and the BLM movement. Some think our government has been heavy-handed in diminishing our God-given rights as American citizens. Others say, “No, it hasn’t.”
Our culture, as of late, has been acrimonious and acidic.
I spoke with a member yesterday who was in tears about a political disagreement that ended a dear friendship. Like Ronnie and Johnny, they have stopped talking to each other.
Stories such are becoming too familiar and sad.
Maybe some of it can be placed on the hook of the disruptions, interruptions, and cancelations from the Corona Virus. Maybe we are becoming a little less human and a bit more something else. I don’t know, but it isn’t healthy.
Have we cast off:
- personal responsibility
- character development
- basic human civility
- the pursuit of humility
- a desire for unity
There are solutions to our problems; that’s not the problem. The challenge is doing it, and it begins with me. Yesterday morning, I confessed to my church that I have struggled with several sinful behaviors and attitudes over the past eight months. In the confession, I also stated that I was repenting of them.
Here is the list:
- gossiping about church members
- saying disparaging remarks about others
- tearing others down to build myself up
- holding on to ill-will towards others related to disagreements
- pride & ego that has hardened my heart to God and others
- having a sour, negative, and critical spirit
- making poor choices based on selfish desires
These have challenged me in big and small ways, and sometimes every day and sometimes not. I finally reached the end. It needed to stop.
What would your list be? Be honest. Are you willing to redirect your heart and mind to a God-centered place?
It’s Easy To:
- ignore our sins
- focus on the sins of others
- look if someone is present who “really needs to hear the sermon.”
- live in denial about our weaknesses
- always find ways to make it about someone else
- condemn behavior in others that we know exists in our lives
To my Christian friends, be reminded that we are called to a higher standard, not a lower one.
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
“The world will know that you are my disciples by your love.”
“Pray for one another and carry each other’s burdens.”
“Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you.”
“Be my light in a darkened world.”
“Serve one another in love.”
“Make sure no one pays back evil for evil.”
“As far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people.”
“Forgive as I have forgiven you.”
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.”
Sooner or later, Johnny and Ronnie had to reconcile. And they did.
What about us?