The Courage To Stay In The Middle

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 18, 2014

                                  

The worst person and place to be in a two-teamed shaving cream fight is the judge in the middle. After a few moments of each team “creaming” each other the judge, invariably, gets pounced on by both teams. The judge comes out wearing more shaving cream than anybody else.

The middle of something is becoming an awkward place to be. People on both sides of you want to pull you in their direction. When you’re committed to staying middle you become the easiest target.

In shaving cream battles it’s fun and humorous, but in the growing chasm of opinion that our culture is experiencing staying in the middle takes courage.

I’m sure some- dare I say most- will disagree with me. I have Facebook friends who are conservatives and Facebook friends who are liberals…Republican and Democrat…Tea Partiers and Starbuckers. I have FB friends who are pro-life and others who are pro-choice…those who attend church every Sunday and those who consider going about once a decade. In other words, I relate to people on both sides of the tug-of-war, looking for common ground with all.

Some of my richest times in ministry- spiritually speaking, not financially (GIve me a break!)- were the years I pastored in the Lansing, Michigan area and lunched every other Wednesday with two other pastors, Chuck and Tom. Even though we’ve gone our different ways because of ministry changes I still consider them to be my two best friends in ministry. One was fairly conservative ( not “Bob Jones conservative, but still leaning a little to the right) and one was fairly liberal. We toss out those labels quite often in Christian circles, but Chuck, Tom, and I never worried about our differences nearly as much as we valued our similarities. I was “the middle man” of the three, the moderate.

That experience, lunching with two guys at Finley’s Restaurant every other Wednesday for seven years, tells me that the middle doesn’t have to be a conflicted place…if there is an unquestionable commitment to respect and value one another, and be willing to clearly listen more than the compelled to speak.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying! I’m not minimizing the importance of people having strong opinions, just the tendency to think that their belief, stance, or opinion is the only valid one.

Jesus had strong beliefs, but he refused to be in anyone’s camp except his father’s. That put him at odds with someone in just about every teaching he gave. If there was one group that Jesus was the most consistently identified with it was the poor, widowed, and diminished. He reacted against excluding people because of their afflictions, mistakes, gender, and ethnic group.

I’m a “middler”, and I find it increasingly uncomfortable and inconvenient to be there, but I would be uncomfortable being labeled a conservative or a liberal. If you are in the middle you may be seen by one group as being a liberal, and another group as a conservative. People’s view of who you are must not change who you REALLY are.

I can watch Fox News or CNN equally without feeling guilty. I can sit in conversational fellowship with my neighborhood pastor friends from different denominations and be enriched by the diversity. I can partner with the Mormon principal of the elementary school down the street to help make our community better with a sense of confidence that we are on the same page.

As our culture becomes more polarized I believe the gospel has opportunities to draw people together. It may take time and effort, but it is….still is…our source of hope.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Freedom, Grace, Jesus, love, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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