Accommodation and Space. In our relationship with Jesus, He accommodates our individual gifts and callings as He made us that way. We accommodate Him by submitting to His leading and lordship, by making Him the priority in our lives. Now we need to look at how we can accommodate and make space for our fellow travelers on our journey to Christ likeness. To that end…
Scripture exhorts us to ‘keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3). To understand how to walk this is out it is necessary to recognize that unity and uniformity are not the same thing. Consider a husband and wife – children are the result of a unity that is focused on appreciating the differences!
Ephesians has something further to say on the issue.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, Ephesians 1:7-8 NKJV
In what is currently taking place in our culture and in the church culture we need to embrace wisdom and prudence. Prudence is not a word we often hear and it refers to wisdom in how we manage relationships. Paul seems to be emphasizing the importance of practical wisdom. Being prudent in our decision making is demonstrated in exercising wisdom and foresight in the context of respectful words and actions. Jesus demonstrates that in His relationship to us, and we are called to do the same in our relationships with others, both within and outside of the church.
This is where Accommodation and Space come in. We are not called to try and shape others into clones of ourselves or anyone else. We are called to discern their gifts and callings and help them grow in those gifts and callings to build up His body. He loves diversity and makes every snowflake different to demonstrate it.
Creating a respectful psychological, physical and emotional atmosphere creates the opportunity for change and growth. It isn’t a matter of setting aside a scriptural standard of righteousness, it is respecting different gifts and callings in the context of righteousness. True unity is established in the context of diversity. After all, the original meaning of the word university for our institutions of higher learning referred to seeing the unity across diverse subject areas. A liberal arts education, which had nothing to do with a political party.
In our current culture, including the church, we need to learn to appreciate the differences. We need to learn to lean on discernment from the Spirit not media, social or otherwise. Now to a very current cultural example that we in the church can learn from.
I have been a part time mediator for almost three decades and have trained literally hundreds of people in the process. When the process was becoming popular in the US and Canada the dominant model was the Interest Based approach and the first stage in the process was referred to as Story Telling. The reason for this was the recognition that even more than in normal discourse, people in conflict or in trauma have a need to be heard. One of the most respectful things we can do for others, a demonstration of Accommodation and Space, is to give them our attention and listen to their story. Listening, actually focusing on someone else and listening, defuses a great deal of anger and frustration. Understanding does not equal agreement; it does demonstrate respect. Seeking understanding is a tool to build bridges and a demonstration of respect for those we disagree with.
Currently in Canada as I write this, we have had the Freedom Convoy in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, for a week. Whether or not we are in agreement with their demand for change, surely, we can agree that mostly they are simply expressing their frustration out of a desire to be heard, to be listened to, to be given Accommodation and Space. Sadly, not only has our Prime Minister refused to meet with them, in his own words, their views are “unacceptable.” Why are they unacceptable? Because he doesn’t agree with them! Many of the protesters have raised cries of tyranny. Our Prime Minister and the governing Liberal party have responded by seeking to marginalize and demonize those they disagree with. While I do not understand or know his heart, and seek to respect his office, I do know that based on the fruit of his behaviour and the governing party this approach is bringing further division in our nation.
We as the church are called to be salt and light. Salt is a preservative; light helps us to see. There are people from inside and outside the church that are part of the protest and on both sides of the issue. While not everything been done correctly, focusing on the misdeeds of the few to marginalize the all merely exacerbates the process and deepens the divide. Conflicts in life are inevitable, how we respond to them is a choice. So, as we seek to navigate the current issues let us join together in praying for wisdom and prudence to prevail. That voices on both sides of the issue would be heard and respected and understanding sought. May it be a marker for how we navigate the future as well. As Paul wrote so long ago.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)
A friend forwarded a song this week that can be turned into intercession. Apply it to your nation wherever you are.
Lianna Klassen, Song for Canada