I was reading a recent article in which Val Kilmer talks about his faith. He is a Christian Scientist. In that article, he does an interesting and somewhat disturbing comparison. He compares picketing and shouting at a planned parenthood entrance to an extremist blowing up someone in the name of God. While I think some people who protest are often violent in their language, for the most part, these men and women are there silent with rosaries, praying and offering literature and support for mothers who have no one. The comparison is an unfair one at best. At worst it demonizes the people who go out trying to save the lives of the unborn and labels them as extremists that should be ignored.
In the first reading, we see what love looks like. The gentiles are being disturbed by someone. Likely it was a group of Judaizers who were telling them that they had to start following the six hundred and thirteen rules of the Law to be saved. That meant these men would have to be circumcised and change every part of their lives immediately. We often balk when God asks us to give up one thing. Imagine if someone told you that to be Christian meant completely changing each thing about your life, home, everything. The Apostles felt this was too much, too soon. They instead engaged the culture while also being sure to create an environment where the Jews who would eventually be sitting down to eat with the gentiles were welcome and not offended. It was a compromise for that time, that place.
Jesus in the Gospel commanded us to love one another. Not suggested, not hinted at, but commanded. That's a reminder it is not an option. Love is an action, a choice. That means that on some things we have to compromise. We have to know the culture we are witnessing to. We have to meet people exactly where they are, and that means understanding them. It's a fine line though. We have to compromise on the non-essentials. We cannot compromise on the Gospel. Living a brand of Christianity that does not engage the other, that doesn't spread the Good News, that doesn't stand firm in the face of sin... that's not the Christianity that gives its life for the other. Christ tells us that we have to lay down our life for our brothers and sisters, and that means standing on the front lines with picket signs if need be. Val is right that screaming and yelling needs to stop. It doesn't convince others to stop what they are doing, it simply makes you seem irrational and angry. What doesn't need to stop is the encounter of the person and defense of the unborn. We cannot stop speaking for them. We always must be a voice for the one who has none.
His servant and yours,
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14
A reflection on the readings for Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter: May 19th, 2017