We discuss a lot of things in our church, but Brexit is not one of them. This is perhaps because there is a split right down the middle, and it is an issue on which we have all been made to take sides. We each had to choose either “For” or “Against” in what was really quite a complex issue, and we really don’t want an argument in church, do we?! We interpret Paul’s words in Romans 12: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” as an instruction not to discuss our differences, but to ignore them.
I wonder whether we could have a conversation instead of an argument?
Paul urged the church Philippi: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”. This was good advice to those who lived in the city where Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, in 42BC; a real history of conflict there. How can we know what the interests of others were in the referendum if we don’t ask? Of course, we could always assume that we know, which, as my dearly departed friend Joe would have said, makes an “Ass” out of “U” and “Me”. Perhaps we need to expose our differences and try to understand them before they fester and divide us?
Jesus placed quite an emphasis on this, in Matthew 5, he instructs: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
So, let’s begin with first principles: we are a group of people trying to emulate the qualities of Jesus; loving each other; putting each other’s needs on a par with our own. This is the Christian life. Pursuing this idea, when we find an issue that has the potential to divide us, let’s try to explore it. The people who have taken the opposite point of view must have done so for good reasons, what are those reasons? Unless we understand, we cannot discuss. The first thing to do is to ask questions and then listen to the answers. Other people want to divide us, we should refuse; we should set out to find those principles and beliefs that unite us.
The difficulty with issues where we are presented with one of two opposing options is that we inevitably think of our position as “Right” and the other position as “Wrong”. That might be the situation occasionally, but it is not likely to be the case every time, is it? From an eternal point of view, what actually happens will probably not be terribly important. The waves will still break on the shore in 1000 years. It will still rain on Bank Holidays (assuming there are still banks, and holidays). Volcanoes will continue to blow their tops, dwarfing our own power, if we still have any by then. What might persist is the love we use to resolve our differences; that might persist down the generations even if we are wrong about everything else.
Let’s be brave, let’s talk, let’s listen, let’s avoid the horns of this dilemma and be reconciled to our brothers and sisters who find themselves on its other side. Brexiteers and Remoaners, unite! Let us try to understand each other and continue to love our slightly different take on things that leaves us on opposite sides of a fence erected by someone else.