Rev. Daniel Humbert expresses the joy of being in relationship with those who are different from him:
We siblings are strange creatures, aren't we? In many ways we have a love/hate relationship going on all the time. We love each other because we're related and we grew up together, and yet we often can't stand each other because we're related and we grew up together….siblings!
I have two brothers. I'm the youngest, so of course I'm the spoiled one. There are three years between my middle brother and myself and almost 10 years between my oldest brother and myself.
Growing up I had much in common with my middle brother because we were somewhat similar (even though my older brother often pitted me against my middle brother...siblings!). Being so much older than me, my oldest brother had little in common with me at the time. In fact, he moved out of the house when I was 8 years old so I actually didn't know him well at all early on. All I knew of him was that he was a rebellious, street-wise, hard-headed relation of mine.
Fast forward 20 years (so 20 years ago!) and my oldest brother and I begin to discover a relationship. We discover we have much in common…siblings! We're both stubborn, impatient and occasionally foul-mouthed. We're both deeply committed, loyal and love to discover new things. We're both in sales (my dad always like to say all of his boys were in sales, as was he!). In many ways we relished, and still do, what we hold in common. In fact, it's actually what binds us together to this day.
My oldest brother and I also discovered that we differ greatly on other things. He's extremely extroverted—never met a stranger, can talk to a dead tree, loves a good party; while I'm pretty introverted—I love a good book and a quiet evening at home. He and I don't view politics the same at all—in fact we've learned (at least I have) to not talk politics together. He doesn't go to church much (even though he's deeply Christ-like in his love and service to others) and I tend to live at the church. My brother has lived what I call a "hard-living" life, and I've tended to be pretty boring and staid. We're very different in many ways…siblings!
"...with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:2-3 (NRSV)
While we've never used this scripture to describe our relationship, I think it does describe what we believe about our love for each other. My brother and I don't always agree. We aren't exactly alike. We don’t have the same specific values. What we do have is love…and respect…and relationship. We are deeply committed to each other. And we've chosen to unapologetically live into Paul's wisdom even though we wouldn't have identified it as such. It's good for us to claim what we hold in common and to "maintain the unity of the Spirit."
I share all of this, because I believe the relationship I have with my oldest brother is much the same kind of relationship we have together in the church. In the life of the church we don't always agree on everything; we don't always like the way things are done; and we may not always share the exact same values. All of this is tempered by two things—our love of Christ that binds us together no matter what, and our common mission to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
The blessing of having a common purpose is that no matter how much we might disagree on issues or processes or even ideas, we know that we exist for one common purpose. Trietsch Memorial UMC is a phenomenal church with both an amazing past and a glorious future. And it's all because we choose to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." That unity is Jesus and a central call to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
I'm so grateful that my brother loves me just as I am and that I can love him the same. Jesus calls us to love one another in the same fashion. No matter our differences on many issues, Christ still unites us together as one. We're like siblings in Christ!