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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cultivating common ground

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I'll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. {I Corinthians 1:10 MSG}

When we say we are going to "get" anything, we mean that we are going to come into possession of something we are about to put into use, or make available for one's enjoyment and satisfaction.  When we combine this with the word "along", we are indicating we are about to live life in parallel to each other.  It can get a little messy to live life in parallel to anyone else, but it is not exactly easy to live life running in opposite direction of each other!

When we seek to live life in parallel, we are commanded to do a couple of things - be considerate of one another, and cultivate the "parallel life" as deeply as possible. To be considerate of another we have to become familiar with the life circumstances they are presently experiencing, as well as those which have already shaped their lives. As you can well imagine, I am not as well acquainted with the life of someone who was raised in the jungles of South America, or the wilds of the African dessert regions.  I grew up here in the United States, and as a result, my vantage point on life has been shaped by the presence of luxuries others in these remote regions may not have ever experienced.  Just as equally, I have not experienced the hatred and contempt for one's race, color, or creed as others may have experienced firsthand. Does this mean I cannot walk in parallel with those who are different from me? Absolutely not!  What it does mean is that I may have to "cultivate" that walk a little.

To "get along" means more than just tolerating another's way of life or unique character qualities. It means more than respecting them. Yes, it involves all of these things, but it also involves each of us remembering we are not different from each other in one important thing - we were all born sinners, in need of a Savior, and no man, woman, or child is without sin in their lives.  If we start there, we find we have a good place to begin to cultivate our relationship with each other. In fact, there is no better place to begin to experience community than on "common ground".

When we set out to cultivate soil, it is with the purpose of planting, which in turn is done to produce growth, resulting in something which can not only sustain us, but pass life onto others. To cultivate a life in parallel with each other, we find it takes more than a little work - in fact, it requires repeated passage over rough areas with such frequency that we eventually see the things which stand as barriers to growth in our lives begin to break down into smaller and smaller pieces until one day the relationship is able to accept the seed, allowing rich and vibrant growth to come forth.

In a time when differences seem to be at the forefront of our news stories, media posts, and daily conversations, it is important to remember what we are to be cultivating. We are designees of God's grace and as such, we walk in parallel with others who may or may not have experienced that grace in all of its fullness yet. We cultivate growth within those areas of differences through the extension of grace. We may not see eye-to-eye on every topic we will discuss, or feel impassioned about in our own lives, but we stand a better chance of getting to appreciate the perspective of the one who has walked that path if we are willing to extend a little grace into the relationship. Just sayin!