Posted on 09/05/2018 by Darren Casper
I have a lasting memory of a deacons’ meeting as a young pastor many years ago.The meeting took place in the living room of a deacon’s home. The meeting became pretty intense as I was trying to lead some significant change and the room was split on the issue. One of the deacons, Al B., on the other side of the issue, made his case strongly yet properly and his position carried the decision. I thought, “man this guy just doesn’t like me.” The meeting soon ended with prayer and a time for dessert and fellowship. Al came over to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Darren, can I get you a piece of pie?” We then sat down together and he proceeded to ask me about how Kelli and I were doing and about our new life in St. Louis. The way Al handled disagreement, spoke his mind and did so with strength and grace has always stuck with me.
Our country and its leaders, need a lesson in civility. The passing of John McCain has shown us that. We’ve heard both democrats and republicans speak of their respect for a man of conviction of whom they may have had deep disagreement over an issue, yet they admired Senator McCain for the way he navigated his positions, convictions, and also the disagreements with his colleagues.
In the Fall of 2017, I was invited by Pastor Bob Roberts of Dallas, to join an effort he was involved in called My Neighbor’s Keeper. It is a multi-faith initiative between leaders of the Abrahamic faiths of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. It is distinctly multi-faith in that each leader is encouraged to hold firmly to his or her theological convictions. There is no lowering the bar of our beliefs trying to find common agreement. It’s a pursuit of peace and friendship while respecting one another’s differences. There are presently about 15-18 American cities involved. We had our first My Neighbor’s Keeper – St. Louis retreat last week led by myself, Rabbi Jim Bennet, and Imam Asif Umer.
It was a wonderful and yet challenging time of listening, sharing, and developing friendship. While recognizing that we do not pray, worship, or believe the same in hardly any way, we worked to honor the human dignity of one another made in God’s image. This gathering of leaders forces you to choose your words carefully and respectfully, all the while doing so in a way that doesn’t just honor your own convictions but as a believer honors the Lord Jesus Christ.
God help us all in these changing days, to be people who stand for truth, speak the truth, and do so always with love and grace.