Relationship trumps vindication

Cof orange hexEpiscopal Bishop Jake Owensby (of Western Louisiana) is one of the sharpest people I know. So when he writes something calling for a change in our corporate behavior both in the Church and in our society, I pay attention.

In his recent post on resolutions for the New Year, he ends by sharing the following list which he offers as a way to move us beyond the corrosive partisanship that just about everyone agrees is tearing us apart, but no one seems to be able to escape.

  • Seek the common good, not just your own narrow self-interest.

  • Ask what you can contribute in every situation, not merely what you will get out of it.
  • When we disagree about ideas, assume the good will of those with whom you disagree.
  • Refuse to indulge in contempt for those with whom you disagree.  Look actively for the good in them.
  • Find the one thing you agree upon and commit to working together on that with all your might.
  • Remember that right relationship is more important than being right.

We need a new tone in this country.  We need a positive, cooperative spirit that takes disagreement as a process for finding common solution instead of battles to have our own way all the time.

We are all in this together.

More here. (With graphics and a movie even!)

I added the emphasis on Jake’s last point because I think it’s so important. We need right relationships with each other more than we need to be able to protect God from the errors we fear someone else might be making. God doesn’t need our protection. And for people that might argue that we are trying to protect the person making the error, rather than protecting God, I’d like to be shown proof of how uniformly successful they’ve been in changing the behavior or ideas to which they object…

It seems to me that the opening of John’s Gospel, where we remember the moment that the Word of God literally “pitched a tent and lived among us” points us to the method that God used to finally gain our attention and change our direction. God lived among us in relationship first – our understanding and change takes place as a result of that relationship. Relationship seems to precede amendment of life – at least in most of the biblical narratives. We are called, I believe, to seek relationship with others more than we are called to find vindication of our ideas about others.

I make a further point in the opening chapter of the book “Entangled States” when I argue that the Church has a special charism in creating these sorts of healing relationships in such a moment in our history.

About Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...
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One Response to Relationship trumps vindication

  1. LaVerne Zuk says:

    This hit me where I live. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and passing on lessons that are very much needed.

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