I had lunch with a dear friend today, I trained for ministry with him on an ecumenical course. If we had not trained together I doubt that our paths would ever have crossed, but I am very glad that they did.
It is amazing that I can call him a friend, because we disagree on many areas of theology and practice, but we share a love for God and I believe that it is God who by grace enables us to be friends.
I see in him a passion for the faith that he holds dear, and I suspect that he can see that same passion reflected in me, and yet we express and appropriate the grace and love that come through faith so differently. He does not believe that women should be ordained, whereas I definitely do ( no surprises there), we look at Scripture from different angles and interpret it differently. He makes me shudder sometimes, and I know that the feeling is mutual. BUT he is my friend.
Grace enables both of us to hold our beliefs both dearly and passionately and yet lightly, grace taps us on the shoulder and reminds us that we might just be wrong. I pray for him, and I know that he prays for me, and there are times when I seek his wisdom for in it I find a deep compassion.
I find our friendship to be challenging and stimulating, as well as finding it infuriating at times. I believe that it is essential that we retain the ability to hear one another, and that we continue to see the passion for Christ that the other displays. I believe there is a real need for respectful debate and discussion amongst Christians of all flavours, and that by being intentionally open to one another we will learn and grow. It is easy to enter into a slanging match and to build small enclosures for our selves and those who think exactly as we do, it is harder and more challenging to choose the way of grace, but we must learn to do so!
Another friend-a blogosphere friend with whom I tend to agree says this:
If we only listen to those we agree with, what credit is that to us? Even terrorists do that! But if we wish to make a difference in this world, if we want the world to become a listening world, we need to lead by example. We need to become excellent listeners, active listeners … listening to those we disagree with.
He is right, grace filled listening is the way we are called to, it is a path of humility and growth.