For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Matthew 18:20

 

My father lost sight in his left eye playing tennis. While he was young, in a freak accident, he was hit in the eye by an opponent’s tennis ball. That accident put an end to his love for playing competitive tennis. He could no longer easily see his relationship to a ball in play. While he could still see with his other eye, his visual world became flatter. It became much harder to judge not only an oncoming tennis ball but anything else that required depth perception.

Pentecostés by Juan Bautista Mayno, ca. 1615-1620. Public Domain.
Pentecostés by Juan Bautista Mayno, public domain.

It’s easy to take for granted that God made us to see the world with two eyes. Each of our eyes sees the world from slightly different points of view, and that information is integrated by our visual system to form three-dimensional images of the world around us. With only one eye, as my father discovered, the world looks very different—it loses its dimensionality. Vital nuance and depth are lost.

Human beings were created for community. As the creation account reminds us, when God said of Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). One of God’s greatest gifts of being human is the gift of the other. That is particularly true in the creation of male and female. My wife and I have been married for forty-three years. It took me some time to appreciate how our differences—including the way we look at the world—enrich our relationship and how, as a result, we interact with the world around us.

What is true of marriage is even more true of the gift of other people. We need others to help us rightly see the world around us. Without other perspectives, our view of the world flattens out. Without different perspectives, we lose vital nuance and depth.

Today’s culture wars elevate our differences to the exclusion of our ability to see the world through other perspectives. The political, moral, and social debates of our day polarize us into groups that see and share only one point-of-view. We have lost the ability to see the world stereoscopically. So, how are divergent, even hostile, perspectives to be integrated? Today’s verse provides the key: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Jesus is the integrating center for humanity. Human beings are meant to live as flourishing, diverse communities that are held together by God in Christ. God alone can bring together the intentionally disparate and seemingly irreconcilable elements of human society. Former enemies can be reconciled. The wolf and the lamb can learn to dwell together. That is both the ultimate and the immediate vision for the Kingdom of God. What I love about the gospel of Jesus is that it offers not only a picture of a glorious future, but that it gives us a way to begin today.

Jesus starts with “where two or three gather in my name.” We can begin with just one or two others, right where we are. We can learn to seek out others who follow Jesus, but who see the world differently than we do. This is not about denying our convictions or how we see the world. It’s about learning to look through another’s perspective, and having our vision broadened in the process to see the world with depth and nuance.

No doubt, this is hard work. It requires us to be willing to learn from others rather than simply telling others our own views. It requires us to look for what is best in another’s perspective rather than what is worst. And it requires honesty of us, to be willing to admit when we are wrong, and, whenever possible, to find points of agreement with a different point of view. After all, this is part of Jesus’s integrating work in us as a community of his followers. Jesus can hold widely diverse and divergent perspectives together. In our own spheres of influence, we are called, in our own small way, to follow him and learn to do likewise, and thereby to learn to see the world more fully.

Something to Think About:

What points of view, culturally, politically or socially, do you have trouble engaging? Why do you think that might be?

Something to Do:

Find someone you know, who follows Jesus and who holds a different perspective from you on an important political, social, or cultural matter. Ask that person for a conversation to learn more about their perspective. In your conversation, focus on trying to understand their position. Try and state their position back to them, and ask the question, “Do I have this right about what you believe?” You do not need to agree with them, but simply focus on trying to understand their perspective.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, we live in a deeply divided world. And, we confess that the church, your people, in many ways mirrors those divisions. We pray that you, as Lord and head of the Church, would bring us together, to love one another out of our love for you, and to learn from one another by your Spirit. Help us to hear one another with grace and truth. Help us by your Spirit to see the world rightly, with depth and nuance. We ask in your name, Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Conflict Resolution (Matthew 18:15-35)

2 Comments

  • I found this revealing and refreshing. Thanks so much for sharing. Perhaps we might even extend this courtesy to those who are of other beliefs than Christianity.

    • Thanks, Larry, for your comment. And, yes, given God’s common grace to all human beings, we have much we can learn from others, including from those who are not part of the Christian community.

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