The Grudge & Why It Needs To Go

On the day that I am writing this, I am reflecting on all of the posts that I saw on my social media feed from 9/11.  

Many of them were respectful, somber and introspective as friends remembered where they were on that day, and how they felt.  Others were not.  More than a few were filled with anger and bitterness.  And some chose to take the moment to pledge their allegiance to one presidential candidate or another.  

I posted my own actually---remembering what it felt like in the days after the tragedy of 9/11, and the shock that ensued.  We were unified then.  We put aside our differences, and we came together, bonded by our shared grief, and the fear that filled us all.  

It didn't last, as you recall.  It was mere days afterward that ultra-conservative Christian leaders began proclaiming that 9/11 was a punishment on the United States for the way we had begun to be more accepting of LGBTQ people. 

And then the politicians started blaming one another.
And then there was war... years and years of it.  
And our divisions grew, and the chasm between so many of us became uncrossable. 
And now after nearly two decades of this... here we are.  

The Irish poet Brendan Kennelly wrote a poem entitled The Grudge.  I have been reading it off and on for several weeks now, and it seemed the right time to reflect on it.  Here it is: 
Do you know what strength is?
Is the grudge, 
The force that severs and divides, 
Nourishes ignorance
As though it were the weakest babe of all, 
Tutors the young in hatred, 
Teaches them the slogan and cry, 
Refuses to die

The grudge grips generations. 
The grudge refuses to die. 
The grudge stole from the soul

The secret of immortality. 

How does this land on those of us who call ourselves Christians?  What do we mean now when we speak of "the grudge" in our own context? 

We mean all of the resentments that have been harbored between us over these past years... the weaponization of the Bible... the politicization of faith... our deeply held beliefs that turn us against one another... the way that we demonize those who disagree with us... the way so many Christians forget or ignore the teachings of Christ...  

Those of us who declare that we are followers of Jesus need some revival right about now.  We need to return to the very basic tenets of the Christian faith---basics that have their origins long before all of the distortions that have become the bedrock of American Christianity.  

To Love God and to Love Everybody.  

This is what Jesus declared was the greatest commandment.  To Love God and Love Everybody.  Everything else is commentary--shaped by our biases, fashioned in our bubbles, created out of our particular worldview.  

And we can spend our time trying to prove others wrong, and declare ourselves completely in the right or we can do something else.  We can simply practice these two things in tandem---to Love God and Love Everybody--and maybe... just maybe we can build a better world.   

I  read a quote from Bob Goff recently that speaks directly into this.  He wrote:  

We won’t get very far in life on information alone.  Eventually we’ll realize we were wrong about things we thought we knew, and we’ll wish we’d just loved people instead of trying to prove them wrong. 

Almost a decade ago, I came to the realization that a lot of the things I once believed to be inviolate when it came to my Christian faith were anything else but.  I had been relying on information alone, refusing to see Scripture through any other lens but my own.  

And then I realized that when Jesus said that every aspect of Scripture hung upon that Greatest Commandment---it changed me.  It is still changing me.  And Lord knows I need changing!

May you find the freedom that comes from focusing on that simple command---to Love God and Love Everybody.  May you be set free from the grudge that has kept us all from finding true unity in Christ.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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