On the one hand, everyone needs to do their part and take care of themselves. On the other hand, everyone needs to look after their neighbor and take care of each other. Both of these statements are perfectly true, but if one is taken on its own without the other life would become unbalanced and the world as we know it would fall apart. Life is full of such covenants. There are some who need to hear the first statement nearly to the exclusion of the second and vice versa. In my experience those who understand the first also understand the second, while there are others who seem to be oblivious to both.
Most of life is made up of such contracts and contexts. We experience “can’t have one without the other” when we meet family members of our friends and acquaintances and a behavior is suddenly explained. On an international scale we see this in our reactions and responses to other nations’ decisions and actions. What we do can only be explained as a response to what they do. In this way we are just as (or more) influenced by our enemies as by our friends. This is how we get caught in the middle of conflicts that seem so ridiculous on both personal and national stages.
We see the problem of dismissing one side or the other when speeches and quotes are taken out of context and placed in one dismissive of the other side. It is as though we forget that we need various viewpoints, because no one knows enough to win every argument. In truth, most of us do not know enough to win any argument. There will always be unforeseen consequences. There will always be enough blame to go around.
Even the idiots on the other side need to be heard (pick your own side). I listen to and read things that offend me from time to time.
I have trained myself to power though it in order to hear what is being said.
Most of us know that a good argument from another viewpoint helps us to understand our own better — or may even convince us to move a little.
This is all good as far as I am concerned. We live in a wonderful, wacky and injured world. It is no wonder that we spend so much time arguing with each other. When I am hurt, I get either pathetic or grumpy — usually both. I want my problem fixed first — then we will get to you. You want your problems fixed first — then you will help me. Truth is, we are probably looking for the same solution — justice, peace, love, acceptance, growth, wholeness, to be understood.
This covenant of two truths needing each other is built into creation. It is clear from the early chapters of Genesis that God has a plan for this world. It is also true that he has given mankind responsibility to take care of it and work with his plan.
These two things are delicately balanced and seem to some to be in conflict. When we get these out of balance on one side, we hear things like, “God has a plan,” or “God is good, all the time,” to mitigate our pain or responsibility. When we fall off the other side, we can inject our own agendas and pretend that God is all for us. Both carry dangers.
We can see this covenant at the end of Genesis 1. God created a good world and put us in charge. Cannot have one without the other. We cannot understand us without God and we cannot understand God without us.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:27-31 RSV).
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.