Continuing reflections on Jack Reese's The Body Broken ...Chapter 3 continues addressing the need to overcome conflict. Reese says "Many conflicts within churches occur not because of serious doctrinal differences but because the views and experiences of some of the members do not allow them to imagine the beliefs and practices of others. We tend to see things from our own point of view, with our own interests at the center, with our own experiences as the norm." (p55)
He begins describing a church that sounds very much like a model church. It "doesn't have many members who view themselves as mere attenders of worship services, hoping to get something good and giving only to what they like. Instead, they see themselves as partners with one another for the gospel's sake."(p57) As the description continues conflict creeps into the picture. He talks about some disagreement that has arisen between two "old warriors who have been a part of the vision and life of the church". In my male-centric mind I envision two strong-willed gray haired men until he mentions that they are women. It soon becomes clear that he is talking about Euodia and Syntyche and the Philippian church.
He continues by paraphrasing Paul's letter to the Philippian church, a pattern he follows in the next few chapters with the letters to the Ephesians, the Romans, and the Corinthians. I find throughout the book that his paraphrasing and setting of the context for these letters causes me to think about them in ways I had not previously. In each case he describes the existence of some difference in race, social status, or opinion. The difference has become a source of conflict and Paul has to remind his audience how to behave towards one another - in this case with humility. Do not think so highly of myself, and do think more highly of others.
- - - -
One of the comments Jack made the other evening was that we need to get out more, that the narrowness of the range of our experiences restricts our capacity to understand the views of and to trust the motives of others who are not just like us. I find this to be true on multiple levels - within the context of the local church, between churches, and between church and community. I mentioned Larry James in my initial post. One of the reasons I admire Larry is that he forces me to either broaden my range of experience or to stick my head in the sand and ignore the challenges faced by the poor and disenfranchised. While it is frequently not comfortable for me to become involved with people in circumstances different from my own, I am convicted by Jesus' words that "As you have done to the least of these..."