Pastor’s viewpoint: June 15, 2019

Published 10:54 am Saturday, June 15, 2019

Remember when motel rooms had two back-to-back doors that connected the adjoining rooms with each other? There were two doors, because the people in both rooms could decide to open their door … or not. A family could use two rooms, opening the two doors to create a passageway from one room into the other. Or they could keep their doors locked because they didn’t know who was in the other room.

My friend and pastor while I was in seminary, Dr. David Seamands, told me something like that when he told me that two people must do their part if they are separated. One person must repent of whatever caused the separation and the other person must forgive whatever caused the separation to create reconciliation. Now you know I like formulas, so “repentance plus forgiveness equals reconciliation.” But if either person refuses, reconciliation is impossible.

And now motel rooms don’t have connecting doors … and repentance and forgiveness are not common terms … and we are more separated than we’ve ever been in my lifetime. We don’t disagree; we attack. We don’t discuss with each other; we yell at each other.

Even our language is changing. Jonathan Merritt, in his book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch, has discovered that language about Christian virtues is, unfortunately, declining right along with God talk. Since the early 20th century, humility words like “modesty” have fallen by 52 percent. Compassion words like “kindness” have dropped by 56 percent. Gratitude words like “thankfulness” have declined by 49 percent. When such words fall out of circulation, our entire culture suffers.

Paul warned us about a time when we’d be separated from God and from each other, “[1-2] By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us — set us right with him, make us fit for him — we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand — out in the wide-open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” (Romans 5:1-5)

Several years ago, I was preaching at the Blue Gap Church on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and talked about a time when I, as a white American, and they, as Native Americans, would have been shooting at each other. But now we were worshiping together as friends … what made the difference? And they responded, “Jesus!” They (we) were saying that, a long time ago, we were listening, as enemies, to different voices; now we’re listening, as friends, to the same voice! What if we all listened to the same voice?


Charles “Buddy” Whatley is a retired United Methodist pastor serving Woodland & Bold Springs UMC and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.