Yesterday at co-op we were asked to turn in surveys regarding the dress code. We had gotten a list stating that most moms at the co-op favored the stricter dress, but there was an anonymous list, assigning numbers to each mom and then articulating what their thoughts were on the dress code. This was a bit odd, as my friend Shannon and I both thought that we were Mom #4. I personally did not feel that any of the statements represented my thoughts fully. I don't believe anyone intentionally misrepresented what I said, however, my biggest issue at the time is that a discussion among the group for a greater understanding amongst us was still missing. The stuff of relationship building, fence-mending, peace making, and unity producing.
Can there be unity even when there is disagreement? I think there has to be.
Then in the afternoon one mom asked me if I was interested in looking at some verses that she pulled out of the Bible after feeling burdened by a conversation between several of us last week. I have to admit, I had seen this paper on the copier earlier in the day and felt an instant aversion to it, not that I am averse to the Bible, but to the way people use it to shove their viewpoints down one another's throats. I didn't know who it was that had compiled this list. I now know that the woman who did it approached it with the most loving heart and best intentions, so when she asked if I would like to read a copy, I did, gladly.
When I started to look up the verses in the Message, which I have just started to read again, they really spoke to me about a few things regarding this issue.
From Romans 14 -This was pretty profound. This is what has happened in our ranks that is so much bigger than how we dress or what we eat, but the pervasive critical spirit that seems to always be present in groups of women. I can say this with the confession that I have been a part of the problem more often than the solution.
v1. Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do, and don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with - even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
v2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell into criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
More from Romans 14 -Think about this in terms of how we treat sexual behavior. My friend Dena could tell you that while Christians should have the most healthy sex lives, we have often allowed something God made to be holy and pure and for the edification of our marriages be contaminated by culture, and even our churches. It has been perverted.
v13-14. Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I'm convinced - Jesus convinced me! - that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, or course by the way we treat it or talk about it can contaminate it.
Even more from Romans 14 -The survey that was sent out asked more questions about sleeve length, striped or not striped shirts, if open toed shoes should be permitted, or whether or not socks should match the clothing or could they be any color. It still missed the mark. The atmosphere of placing judgment on one another is only being strengthened by these things. I am learning through this about my own judgments - not so loud-mouthed or belligerent as they maybe were before but just lingering quietly in my spirit, in my heart as I interact with others.
v15. If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, (Julie's insertion: or what they wear or don't wear), you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember are persons for whom Christ died.
Father put this to rest in me. Let me be a companion in love to all.