Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…  

“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead, we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” Martin Luther’s explanation of the Eighth Commandment.

For the past 30 years I have had the privilege of working with TLC Minister of Music, Karl Olsen. Karl is a rare combination of talent, sensitivity, compassion, humility, gentleness, flexibility, and sincerity. He is an exceptional songwriter and performer. Karl has a passion for peace and justice, and a caring pastoral heart. We have shared a creative, prophetic, and pastoral ministry for 30 years. Don’t get me wrong, Karl is no saint! You see, sometimes he disagrees with me. On occasion, he pushes me harder than I want to be pushed.

One of our members told me recently that she was going to read one of my missives to her mostly grown children at dinner. There had been lots of heated discussions in her home revolving around protests, anarchy, racism, and the place of police officers. She said, “I am going to read this missive to them and tell them that if we cannot talk about this civilly as a family then how can we hope to make progress in the world. If not here, then where?”

The reality is, it is a very difficult time to engage in civil discourse. If I had a nickel for everyone who had talked to me about this, I would have at least a dollar by now. Countless times our members have expressed their exasperation, frustration, and outrage over the political opinions of their family members or friends. Facebook posts lead to Facebook arguments, name calling, hurt feelings, and finally to, “I am going to block you.” People say things to friends and strangers on social media that they would never say “face to face.”

Karl is no saint! Sometimes he has a different opinion than I do. For 30 years we have shared a creative, prophetic, and pastoral ministry together. He has been, and continues to be, a trusted friend, mentor, and colleague. Karl is a gift to TLC and to me. We have had many disagreements, but I don’t ever remember a single cross word. We have agreed, and we have agreed to disagree. We have questioned each other’s views, and yet continued to respect the opinion of the other. We have never aired our disagreements on Facebook.

It is a very difficult time to engage in civil discourse. Everyone thinks that they are right. They read the feeds that support their views and spar with those who think differently. Very few are “liberal” enough to have an open mind and to really listen to opinions that differ from their own. If we can’t talk about this civilly as a family, then how can we hope to make progress in the world? If not here, then where?

The 8th Commandment is broken every day (in a thousand different ways) on social media platforms. It is forbidden to tell lies, to libel or slander. It is imperative that we try to understand our neighbor, and explain their actions in the kindest possible way. You are not going to change anyone’s mind on Facebook, so perhaps it would be best just to listen, pray for them, and respect their right to have their wrong opinion.

Karl is no saint! Pastor Jim is even further down the continuum of sainthood. But we respect each other and we are united in a common mission. We listen when the other speaks. He moves me a little closer to justice, and I get him to sing silly songs for worship. We love each other and we have for 30 years.

It is a difficult time to engage in civil discourse. Help us Lord to work toward solutions, not to add to the problem. May we listen respectfully, may we speak the truth in love. Can we model civil discourse? Can we agree to disagree without holding anger in our hearts?

I am hopeful that the labor pains our country is experiencing are moving us toward a new birth of justice and peace. I am hopeful, and we are one day closer.

Much love,
Pastor Jim

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