Matthew 22:35-40 (NRSV)
35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37 He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Someone emailed me this week and asked if I was going to send out an email about the Pittsburgh shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. As a matter of full discloser on my part, I was in a news blackout last week. After the difficult death of Rebecca Bobbitt, the constant, ongoing bad behavior of politicians and others, I was weary of the news. I was emotionally spent and tired.
This is not normal for me. I am an avid NPR listener. I typically watch the nightly news and scan news reports on my computer in order to be up-to-date on current issues. But lately I’ve grown weary of the vitriol and caustic exchange that seems to be a part of society and culture these days. Therefore, when someone asked me after the 8:30 service this past Sunday why we didn’t pray for Pittsburgh, I didn’t know what they were talking about. I immediately recovered and we included it in our prayer concerns for the next two services.
So, after thinking about the terrible anti-Semitic events in Pittsburgh and the killing of 11 of our Jewish brothers and sisters a quote-the first thing you read as you enter the Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem)-came to mind:
“A country is not just what it does-it is also what it tolerates.”
There is a resurgence of antisemitism and other hate crimes in our country because, in my opinion, there is a lack of appropriate response from our leaders. As I said to someone this last week, “I’m afraid there is going to be an escalation of these kinds of events unless we find a better way to disagree and debate.”It’s difficult for organizations and countries to rise above the emotional intelligence of their leaders. As Edwin Friedman says in his book, A Failure of Nerve, “The anxiety is so deep within the emotional processes of our nation that it is almost as though a neurosis has become nationalized.” Amazingly, this was written over 20 years ago. It’s as if Friedman could see into the future.
Where does all of this leave those of us who call ourselves the Body of Christ? Jesus reminds us that being a Christ follower is more than loving God, it is loving God and neighbor. All people are our neighbors not just people who look and worship like us. We need to shift our dualistic (us/them) conversations and arguments that create a climate of distrust, distortion of the truth, and fear to conversations about justice and peace. We must start learning to live with one another and to work out our disagreements on a more mature level or we are headed, I’m afraid, for a precarious and dangerous future.
I realize that there are those who will disagree with me on some of my points. That’s OK. Can we disagree as brothers and sisters in Christ? Think about it.
Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (New York, NY: Seabury Books, 1999), 53.