Remember the old experiments with magnets in high school?
You’d put two bar magnets end on end and they’d join together strongly. But turn one around and they repelled each other, and it took a lot of energy to force them to connect. The moment you let go they were inches apart again.
The world seems to be full of forces which are both bringing people together and driving people apart. We are conscious of being ‘one global village’ like never before, but then our politics and need to assert our own opinion fractures communities and often ends in violence.
We experience this ambivalence in the church too, where we embrace diversity in some ways, but then sometimes talk as if the ‘enemy’ in our own circles is more dangerous than those outside. Trust is sometimes hard-won in our communities.
I enjoy being part of the South Australian Council of Churches, not because I’m at any forefront of inter-church dialogue or part of any ecumenical projects, but because this organisation promotes, in every way it can, the energy that brings people together in healthy ways, which is actually Christ’s mandate in his High Priestly Prayer: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21 NLT).
One such project in this regard is promoting ‘The Year of Listening’.
Now I’ve got no idea how this will eventuate or who will be involved, but what a great focus for any potentially-conflicted organisation at any time!
Listening without judgement is a glue that builds community. After extensive listening, we may still decide we cannot journey together with someone. But the idea is to reserve judgement until after the listening is done. And in the meantime, a strong relationship may well have been formed. See how the energy is flowing in the right direction. Just like those magnets.
“Let us ask for the grace to listen attentively as we respond to each in our own way, commissioned to make disciples, to listen, to learn, and to love in the way of Christ!” (SACC)
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