drawing the line, part 3

I appeal to my namesake, the Apostle Paul: Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions…We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.[1]

Amid conflict with others, Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome, seems to advocate choosing the compassion of the acceptance of different views rather than challenging or confronting them.

I think the terms “weak” and “strong”, falling on the post-modern ear, bear a distinctly judgmental ring; the former and the latter, less and more favorably, respectively. Doubtless, I also think, Paul would see himself and encourage others to be “strong” in their faith, thus, able to tolerate differences in attitude and perspective. Still, the thrust of his admonition is to urge folk, whatever their personal views, to put others first and to welcome one another across the dividing lines of their opinions and practices.

That said, whatever the issues in dispute, Paul addressed his exhortation, again, to the Christians in Rome; a community of people bonded by their shared faith in Jesus. He well could have written, to paraphrase a now standard and overused phrase: “That which (verily, the One who) unites us is greater than anything that divides us.”

In this, my appeal to Paul finds its flaw. For when I am in conflict with another and our objects of belief, our foundational understandings of life and existence, or our worldviews are wholly other,[2] then we have no common ground on which to stand, save being human, which, throughout history, has not seemed to be enough to stem the tide of hatred and hostility.

So, now what?



[1] Romans 14.1, 15.1-2

[2] Thinking of myself, who and what I am, I would characterize as wholly other to me one who espouses views of white supremacy (thus, considering me, an African American, inherently inferior), xenophobic nationalism (thus, viewing one country, say, America and Americans, innately superior to all other nations and peoples), or theological/philosophical nihilism (thus, rejecting all moral principles as meaningless, literally, nothingness).

2 thoughts on “drawing the line, part 3

  1. Paul,

    I had to ponder this for a few minutes. We don’t have to look far at all to get a good sense of the hatred and hostility in the world today, with the current election campaign being foremost in my mind.

    I consider myself a very strong person, yet weak when it comes to confrontation and conflict. It’s fairly easy for me to give in to the other side. But this election campaign has stirred up a lot in me, most of it negative when it comes to one of the front runner candidates. What I hadn’t thought to do however is hang on tighter to my faith during this turbulent times, for strength more than anything. I may not be able to totally put their views first, ahead of my own, but what I hope I can do is to believe that my faith will get me through whatever the election results come November. This may not answer your “now, what” question but it certainly caused me to pause and reflect on your words!! Thanks for the glimmer of hope!!


    • Thanks, Loretta. I, as you, have wrestled with my thoughts and feelings (many negative and conflicted) concerning our current presidential campaigns and concerning both national parties and candidates. It hadn’t occurred to me to apply my wrestling and reasoning about how to function amid conflict to these election politics. (Hmmm, I’ll have to think about that!) I’ve been and probably will remain focused on how I (and anyone) might function in daily dealings with those with whom I (and anyone) may be in conflict, perhaps because in the world of things I can’t control what candidates say or do or don’t say or do, but I have some say in what I say or do in relation to others.


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