Editor’s note: Due to an editor mixup, this column was postponed for a week after being scheduled to run last Saturday. The Times-News apologizes to Mr. Gharring and our readers for the resulting dated references.
Life is interesting, isn’t it? I was on my way back to Twin Falls after a great weekend and an amazing concert (are you listening to The Lone Bellow yet? Because you should be) when I got a text about a couple of people who were upset about something. As I explored the situation, there seemed to be quite a bit of confusion about either myself or my boss, Duane, having said some disparaging and hurtful remarks to our mayor, someone who to my knowledge neither of us has met. Duane pastors in Boise so I got to see him in worship on Sunday, and we were both completely unaware of any statements to or about our mayor here in Twin Falls. But I do think the timing of this misdirected frustration was just about perfect. Hear me well, as much as this whole situation is odd, I’m not bringing it up to complain, but only because it perfectly illustrates the very thing I had been thinking about writing this article on.
I believe in people. I do. All of them. And the more I spend time with stories about Jesus, the more I learn about human psychology and sociology, the more people and groups I get to experience up close and personal, the more I believe that people are fundamentally good, kind creatures who are driven by love. And so, I try daily to choose to believe this — to assume that whatever behavior or belief I may encounter, if I listen well enough and am curious long enough, love will expose itself as the underlying motivation. But it gets tricky…
Love can sometimes (maybe often) come out sideways. A deep love for a person, group or idea held in an insecure way can express itself as anger, violence, defensiveness and a host of other destructive and disintegrative behaviors. And that can be difficult to deal with not only because those are painful or frustrating things to face, but because these sideways expressions of love can truly be damaging to other individuals and society as a whole. Offering the necessary empathy, compassion and generous curiosity to someone whose love seems to be coming out sideways can be quite difficult. But I’m convinced it’s worth it.
Some people assume I speak for an entire congregation, but Twin UMC, just like any other group of people, is filled with individuals who all have their own perspectives, values and beliefs. But if there is one thing I am convinced we share, it’s our aspiration to be known as a movement of Love. That sign you see most of the year says “Love Everybody, No Exceptions.” We really believe that. My hope is that we would become a people who listen curiously to those we disagree with, searching for that place where love is their true, underlying motivator. I think our world needs more of that right about now.
There’s this show on Amazon Prime, “Good Omens,” that is based on a novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It chronicles the friendship between Crowley and Aziraphale, an angel and a demon, and in one scene we find them standing outside Jerusalem, watching the crucifixion of Jesus. Crowley, the demon, asks Aziraphale: “What was it that Jesus said that got everyone so upset?” “Be kind to each other,” Aziraphale replied, and Crowley responded with “Oh no… that’ll do it.” Loving the “wrong” people can be a divisive action, but that’s the sort of thing that I personally, and many, if not all, in our faith community, are willing to stand and take heat for all day long. But this idea that any of us would say hateful words of condemnation about anyone is almost laughably out of character. At least, I hope that it would be.
Buddy Gharring is the pastor of the United Methodist Church, 360 Shoshone St. E., Twin Falls. Sunday worship is at 9:30 a.m., and the Be Open meditation group meets at 7:30 p.m. Sundays. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to twin.church.
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