Open Book
Light Bulb

disagreement & charity

This past weekend graduates walked out of Notre Dame’s commencement when Vice President Pence began his speech. By all accounts they protested respectfully, departing quietly. They acted out of disagreement with some policy of the Trump administration, likely immigration policy. Critics said students should have heard-out Mr Pence, but Administration policies are readily available and widely known. So it’s unlikely the protestors acted ignorantly.

The apostle Paul initiated a meeting with those who disagreed with him. And give them credit, they accepted.
The story is recounted at the end of the New Testament book of Acts. The apostle Paul arrived in Rome under arrest; scheduled for trial before Caesar. It is a light arrest, Paul lived in a private residence with only a soldier to guard him. (Traditionally such Roman prisoners were responsible for their guard’s room and board.) Three days after his arrival, Paul invites the Jewish leaders of Rome to meet with him.

When they met the Jewish leaders explained, “We want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against the Christian sect.”

Those Jewish leaders display a depth of civility—a level of humility and curiosity that we are loosing. They know something about Christianity, but acknowledge they don’t know enough. They’re aware of widespread criticism of Christianity, yet appreciate that critics don’t provide balance. The Jews refuse to rely on headlines or rumors; they want to hear Paul’s views for themselves. Then they even arrange for a second, more intensive face-to-face meeting.

President Lincoln’s second inaugural included a challenge: “With malice toward none, with charity for all.” These words were spoken at the end of four years of terrible civil war. Spoken within sight of thousands of soldiers’ graves freshly dug at the recently opened Arlington Cemetery. Spoken of people who started a war to maintain their ownership of slaves! Towards these people Lincoln disavowed malice and offered charity.

In Shakespearian prose the King James Bible translated a similar
challenge from the apostle Paul: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; … now I know in part… . And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Dan Nygaard