The Hebrew scholars amongst you will instantly recognise the words of this old Jewish writer, but for those only know Greek, I’ve helpfully included the translation:
σου αρέσουν οι πατάτες και μου αρέσουν οι πατατες
The text speaks of the fallout from disagreement. How, when we let secondary issues take up too much time, we end up calling the whole thing off and losing what matters most.
So, what is it that matters most?
Well, for me, it is my relationships that matter most. And, it turns out, they are the most important to God too.
Humanity is meant to be in relationship with God and with each other. The first commandment is about the primary relationship, the greatest two commandments tell me to love God and my neighbour, and Jesus’ new commandment tells his followers to love one another.
Everything else is, I think, secondary. That is not to say the things you and I might disagree on are unimportant, but we must be careful not to elevate those things above their proper place.
How do I recognise when I get things wrong? I lose what matters most. I lose intimacy with those close to me. I lose friendships and we just go our separate ways. I lose God’s love in me.
There is a story about a man who collapses as he is crossing London Bridge. He is struggling to breathe and unable to help himself. Fortunately, a passer-by stops and stoops down to help and, as he does, he notices that the collapsed man is wearing a cross.
“You’re a Christian? Hey, me too! What church do you go to?”
The man struggles to answer, “Bap..tist…”
“No way! I’m a Baptist too! Are you liberal or conservative? I mean, you believe the Bible literally, right?”
“Yes…” the man splutters. “I need…”
“So, isn’t it great that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead?”
“Er, yes… but…I am actually dy…” he tries to explain.
“So, are you a pre-millennialist or a post-millenialist?”
The man, almost unconscious, just manages to answer, “Post…”
The other man lifts him up, shouts, “Die, infidel!” and throws him off the bridge.
And don’t go thinking that those with liberal beliefs are not necessarily more loving and accepting than those with conservative theology. If there’s one type of person the modern liberal can’t tolerate, it is the intolerant person! It is their job to love who they see as the bigot, the racist, the misogynist, without requiring that they change their minds before they can come to church!
You and I are different people with different beliefs, different experiences, each enjoying a unique relationship with God. We will not change each other’s minds. Either we have to get on with each other…or call the whole thing off.
If we do split up, I promise it will be your choice, not mine. Jesus’ prayer for us is that we might be united in him. Unity doesn’t mean we all think the same on every issue, it means we all accept that the need for his love and forgiveness is universal.
My prayer is that we don’t split up because, in the words of that old Jewish writer, “We know we need each other, so better call the calling off off.”
(For an accurate translation, please copy the Hebrew or Greek text into Google Translate. In spite of the writer being Jewish, the Greek translation is closer to the original meaning of the text. If you are successful, feel free to post the translation, or other words from the text on the Freedom Church Facebook page to encourage one another.)