I often ride to Westminster with someone whose political opinions are quite different from my own. We agree on lots of the problems that our society faces, but we differ pretty widely on how they should be addressed. Nevertheless, the years of riding together, airing our beliefs, sometimes passionately, have served to deepen our friendship and bring us ever closer.
Why is this? I frequently leave these discussions scratching my head over how differently we see the world, and they stay with me through the week. And I’m sure the reverse is true too. But our discussions on the road force me to examine my beliefs in greater detail, to argue with myself before arguing with someone else about them – leading to a greater refinement and nuance of my own opinions: why do I believe what I profess? And of course, there’s the inevitable common ground on which we arrive (without searching) when coming from different points of view.
I don’t argue well. My religious and political opinions don’t fit on a bumper sticker. I use this commuting relationship as an opportunity to forge them, hammering and sawing until they are right for me – just like what we believe about our church: Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda – a church reformed, always in need of reform. But the most important product of this process is the friendship to which I return.
“For [Christ] is our peace, and he has made the both of us one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.” Ephesians 2:14
The theme of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is the separation of the faithful from the power of the darkness in which they were used to living. What are our darknesses? First-world problems like snow days with homebound kids, power outages when the wind gusts, or the tap water tasting a little funny? Having to wait two weeks for a doctor’s appointment, or waiting in a line for the gas pump? What about that dividing wall, in a nation that claims to be indivisible?
During this time in which common ground is difficult to find, I have started to double down on compassion and humanity. Our call to love God and neighbor can take many forms, and whether it’s a Facebook war or an interaction with a stranger, I try to keep these ideals at the forefront. Life in public is messy, and has always been, but we remain at our best when we keep to the values that reflect our Christian nature. Jesus Christ models for us and encourages us to be the best versions of ourselves.
~ Winston Barham