The more we engage our current social climate, the more we see how separated we are becoming from one another, especially when we allow polarizing forces to lead the way. In-person interactions and digital exchanges are saturated with toxic language, attitudes and behaviors diminishing what otherwise might be genuine and fruitful encounters. Accordingly, we find ourselves more isolated and defensive, choosing to keep others at bay.
In some cases, these distancing and protective tactics have affected our most intimate and sacred relationships. In our family dynamics and interfaces, mendable rifts can give way to irredeemable differences. And in our friendships, an honest disagreement or difference of opinion can lead to increasing and unmerited mistrust. Far from engendering confidence in each other, then, these divisive and isolating maneuvers are really corroding the very fabric of communion and communities.
Faced with these social undercurrents, the idea or suggestion that we can be a blessing for each other can come across as strange, unrealistic or suspect. While we don’t all think the same or hold similar political, cultural and social preferences, we sense that there is something fundamentally wrong when we fail to listen to what each has to say or make room for welcoming dialogue or deeper transparency.
The lack of cordial interactions also permeates aspects of our faith lives. Without proper spiritual discernment, we can easily mimic secular divisive behaviors by opting to hold on to our own custom-made theological and spiritual tenets. And, driven by the fervor of the moment, we find ourselves claiming to have a more authentic interpretation of faith, all the while, dismissing the opportunity to embrace one another in kindness, truth and communion (1 Corinthians 1: 10).
A familiar instance of this kind of religious exclusivism and judgmental behavior occurs in our faith conversations with family and friends. Rather than embracing honestly our spiritual differences, we resort to preconceived labels and caricatures of one another. In this and other similar occasions, our Gospel harmony is lost to pride, forgetting our calling: “Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. Do not congratulate yourselves on your own wisdom. Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect” (Romans 12:16-17).
Furthermore, our faith summons us to go further in our interactions with one another. We are to imitate the life of Christ by giving ourselves up for the goodness of others. “I urge you, then, brothers [sisters] remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God, that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people. Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world… [but on] what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and mature.” (Romans 12: 1-2).
The Gospel exhortation to discern the will of God and in so doing renew our minds and hearts for the common good will surely lead us to more authentic encounters with one another. After all, it is the blessing that we have received in Christ that makes is possible for us to be transformed into blessings for others in the world. How each one of us will honor and live up to this grace will make a real difference. “So let us, then, be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another” (Romans 14:19).
F. Javier Orozco
First published June 24, 2022 in the St. Louis Review