Don't waste any time dividing the world into good guys and the bad guys. Hold them both together in your own soul -- where they are anyway -- and you will have held together the whole world.
— Richard Rohr in Hope Against Darkness by Richard Rohr, John Bookser Feister
To Practice This Thought:
Pray for all sides of a conflict.
These thoughts came from one of my “Spirituality and Practice” daily emails that came to me a little while ago. These words from Richard Rohr and the accompanying practice really made me think – you know, the way something you believe is stated in such a way that it brings the message home in a new way.
In the ever-widening divisiveness in our country, the lead-up to local elections caused many to think in terms of good guys/gals and bad guys/gals. One side is oh-so-right and the other is oh-so-wrong. And the people who think or vote that way? Well, they’re just wrong, foolish, or evil. The enemy.
This is so sad. Yet almost everywhere around the globe this same kind of line-in-the-sand discord is on display as nations jockey for position while the world realigns itself. It’s like watching an amoeba under a microscope as it splits off into new cells that in turn roam about and join with others.
The change we’re seeing all over is on such a scale that, of course, it’s much easier to break it down into good/bad, right/wrong digestible bites. And what we can’t digest, we dismiss as bad.
But what if…
…all of this dividing - that all of us do - is a waste of time? Think of all the time, energy, and emotion we put into dividing the world up into good people and bad people. What if our time was better spent doing something else instead?
Jesus told people then as he, the Word made flesh, tells us now (from Matthew 5:43-48)…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This is where we are to pour our energy otherwise, we make a split within our very souls by failing to breach the divide through love and prayer. But you may say, who has time to do all of this? It will take forever to love “those people” and pray for them.
You’re probably right. But how long will it take to continue to reject and think badly of them? That can last a lifetime, too, and go on for generations if we broadcast and encourage others to think badly of them, too. What Jesus teaches is that we can break the cycle of division and make the two one.
Apparently, Jesus believed that prayer was powerful enough that it could bring disparate people together. He also believed that the love of God that flowed through him also had the power to repair bridges that separated us one from the other.
We don’t have to do this all at once. Let’s start with just prayer. Just for today, pray for those with whom you feel deeply separated. You don’t have to feel anything warm and fuzzy. Then try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. This is called being faithful. As you keep this up, you’ll find that what you lack God will supply.
So go ahead. Pray for the good people and the so-called bad people. It takes just as much time to pray for those with whom you disagree or don’t like as it does to think bad thoughts about them. Maybe less…
Then trust that God is working through your prayers to narrow the divide between them and you. Pray for those on both sides of a conflict. And see what happens over time.