I grew up in northern Indiana. Much like here in Delaware County, we had our share of extreme weather and natural disasters. There were severe thunderstorms, tornados, bone-chilling cold, oppressive heat, hurricanes, blizzard conditions that brought the whole city to a standstill. We even had an earthquake when I was a kid. I loved the blizzard days because that meant no school! By the way, I’m kidding about the hurricanes in northern Indiana. Just seeing if you were paying attention.
As I’ve grown, why do I find myself still enjoying these wild weather events? It’s not because they’re dangerous, but because of the unity that comes out of the danger.
I remember being right out of college, and we had a huge snowstorm. It started snowing one day, and didn’t stop until two or three days later. Cars were stranded, people were shut in, and for many it was a dangerous situation. Some friends and I grabbed our shovels and just walked around the neighborhood helping people shovel out their snowed-in cars. We shoveled walks. We talked with strangers to find out how we could help. We weren’t the only ones out there helping, either. Many were lending a hand to neighbors, friends, and strangers.
I see that happening now in Texas and Florida in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. People are donating money to help people they’ve never met, and probably never will. Those in surrounding communities are using their fishing boats to troll down former streets that now are rivers to rescue those who can’t escape the waters. You see all races, sexes, nationalities and religions helping, no matter the race, sex, nationality or religion of the one needing help.
Although not a weather event, we saw this same unity just over sixteen years ago in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. People were in trouble, others helped, regardless of any differences they may have had on 9/10.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said to ”love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” It seems to me that many times the directive from Jesus in this verse is only followed in times of emergency. We suddenly come to the realization that all lives are worth saving and helping, no matter how we disagree in ideology, doctrine, and/or action.
We have become experts at demonizing differences, and allowing that to affect how we act toward someone. Jesus knew that not everyone would get along, that’s why he gave instructions about how to deal with enemies. God knew we would have enemies, but they shouldn’t be enemies because of us. God inspired Paul to pen these words in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
God knows that some will make decisions to antagonize and argue, no matter how someone responds to them. That’s why Paul qualifies his statement with “if it is possible.” The second qualifier to living at peace with everyone is “as far as it depends on you.” Don’t be the reason there is not peace in your relationships. This takes learning how to disagree in humility and respect. It is possible to have peace in a relationship even if there is disagreement. No seriously, it is. You can’t control others’ actions and reactions, but the key is “as far as it depends on you.” You control your actions and the way you treat people.
I think you have probably already connected the dots, but just in case: treat everyone as you would during an emergency. The differences fall by the wayside as we realize more and more what is truly important in life. We don’t wish for the storms to come, but what would our city look like if we lived everyday like it was an extreme weather event? Love each other well.
Dave Pacheco is lead pastor of Delaware Grace.