By NEMS Daily Journal
As the demonstrations in the Wisconsin State Capitol have shown for the better part of two weeks, there is always a temptation, when addressing issues about which we care deeply, to ratchet up the rhetoric.
After all, our position is right, right? And those who disagree could readily see that if only they were less obstinate, right? And perhaps we can get their attention by outshouting, attacking and ridiculing our opponents, right?
The idea that this is a way to “win friends and influence people” a la Dale Carnegie is ludicrous on its face. That often does not keep people on either side of a political or religious argument from acting as though it were true.
Faith, however, requires a certain element of assuredness. If our god is not God, after all, then we are ruined, are we not? And if we misunderstood God’s precepts, we are equally in jeopardy, are we not?
Yes and no.
As confrontational as Christians have been about doctrine and practice oftentimes throughout their history, in the past few centuries there has emerged a consensus that some matters are immutable and others are disputable. The divinity of Jesus is basic to almost all who claim to be his followers, for instance, but days of observance, modes of baptism, predestination and worship styles are among the countless issues over which orthodox Christians may disagree and remain brothers and sisters.
The Apostle Paul gives Christians reason to pause and consider just how adamant we ought to be in disputable matters, whether religious or civic.
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, he wrote about the impossibility of mortal man’s seeing everything as it truly is, let alone how it ought to be: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but [in eternity] face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known [by God].”
What should give us additional pause in how fiercely we defend our positions, religious or otherwise, is that Paul’s observation about our limited comprehension is wrapped in what is often called the Bible’s “love chapter.”
In verses 8 and 9, Paul asserts, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”
The chapter ends with a sobering reminder in verse 13 that the ultimate goal of Christianity is not being right, but being loving – a reminder that would also produce benefit in the civic realm: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”