The Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans today is a “re-do” of the Ten Commandments, with Jesus’ greatest commandment to love one another thrown into the mix. “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” We are called to address any wrongs and do it lovingly—to be an encourager, not a critic or judge. How may we help ourselves and other persons to a reconciliation of our actions, our deeds and our words? It is so difficult…
We all know people who are entrenched in their partisan positions—and it seems that nothing we can say or do will change their perspective, their minds or their hearts—they are “right” and feel righteous and justified in their perspective and position. I looked up persuasion in Webster’s Dictionary: “to move by argument, entreaty and expostulation to a belief or course of action; to plead with…” Just try to just give anyone some food for thoughtful consideration regarding any hot-button social, religious, political or spiritual issue!
Sometimes, in conversation with others there is nothing, not one thing: not scientific fact, or personal experience, or intuition, or even Scripture that will be considered to maybe change hearts and minds and opinions. One would expect that maybe the source may be respected; but it (and we) may be ignored, even derided, certainly not listened to—and sadly, any persuasion falls flat. But here is the “crux” in these moments—as Christians we may not judge (not our role), and we need to remember the words of St. Paul today: “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
In the Gospel today Jesus does give us a plan for speaking to someone about a sin (against you or others). He talks about a private discussion, then a discussion with others present to establish facts, and (hopefully) an outcome. (A Christian intervention!) It is so difficult though, to begin reconciliation for our own selves—let alone for anyone else!
But: when you see evil, witness evil, hear of evil, listen to evil, act evil—how do you choose to persuade others (or yourself) to a different path? In these times of division and partisan stance I believe the challenge is to stay away from judgment, to act in love and kindness, to appeal to someone’s better angels—and to trust God is working out His purpose in these difficult moments. Above all, however: is to always act in love.
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: Here is a link to a filmed performance of the choir my son Elliott sings with professionally in New York City: The First Avenue Presbyterian Church (Choir). The performance was embedded in a livestreamed service (they are still attending only virtually) and it is cued as a part of their service—you can listen to the rest of the service if you choose—a good sermon from their pastor on true freedom (if you are interested). I include the link aside from my personal connection, because “Hark, I Hear” is a lovely choral piece of hope for us in these times. Elliott is in the second row (back) third from the right in this performance—frustratingly sometimes blocked by the conductor… Enjoy!
Hark I Hear: https://youtu.be/v_MTJKUhCSY?t=246