Friday, June 19, 2009

Maintaining Fellowship

I’m writing at National History Day, on 14 June 2009 and have no idea when this will actually be posted. I spent last week in Pensacola taking a break from being at home and just having some fun time with no obligations. I made it to the beach one day (of my objective of every day) and got bored there after two hours. It rained a whole lot at the beginning of the week. While I was at the beach I read through the latest Katalyst and Episcopal Peace Witness.
As I was reading the witness I came across a quotation that really “spoke” to me, as it were, particularly in light of some recent events in my life and the way I handle some situations. In Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer writes, “The followers of Christ have been called to peace...And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods...His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it o others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.” [emphasis added]
Some friends of mine really don’t get it, but I think that maintaining fellowship is an essential part of my theology and understanding of Christian faith. It would be a lot easier when someone drives me up the wall or leaves me hanging because they don’t think we should be friends to wash my hands of them and be done. It might make a whole lot more sense to not set myself up for the anguish of some friendships I try to maintain when people go from driving me up the wall to actually really hurting me by their words and actions.
But it’s very, very difficult for me to just be done with someone. Over the course of time I may set boundaries to keep myself from getting as hurt, but when people -- consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly -- hurt me, I have to seek reconciliation. In the same way the father welcomes the prodigal back with celebration and the way God welcomes us back ad infinitum (through the fullness of time, no less!), I have to try to do my best to welcome people back. And if I’m not actively pursuing a friendship (maybe as part of a boundary to keep myself from getting hurt), I feel like I have to at least keep lines of communication open: I may delete you from my buddy list so that I don’t know when you’re online, but I won’t block you. I may hide you in my stalker feed on Facebook, but again I won’t block you.
I seek reconciliation. But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am content to let a friendship fall to the wayside, particularly if I think that my attempts at communicating hurt are failing. But if someone seeks reconciliation, I won’t turn them away. And if someone tells me we can’t be friends anymore, I try to receive and respond to that in love and charity.

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