In reading the Gospels, I noticed that Jesus is often in conflict with someone, usually the authorities, but not always. Everywhere he went they would give him a hard time, question him, test him and set him up for entrapment. There are times in my life when I experience the same. People who give me a hard time unjustifiably. Reading today’s scripture in Mark 3:1-6 I had an awakening to the fact that I should not be surprised when it happens to me, especially in the church. I should expect to run into these people. Jesus did, and if I follow him, wouldn’t I?
I call these people the sandpaper people. I think you know what I mean, the people who no matter what you do or say they find a reason to give you a hard time. They create conflict. There is no pleasing them. I call them sandpaper people, because they are rough and abrasive. In spite of their abrasiveness they have a positive side. Their rough edges smooth us out and make us better people. I swear they help us get to heaven. I heard a quote once that said, if you want peace; go out of your way to talk with your enemy. Now that is conflict and that is what Jesus did consistently.
As Stanley Hauerwas puts it, “It seems our enemies are exactly who Jesus is forcing us to confront, for he tells us that we cannot cherish our wrongs. Rather, we are commanded to engage in the difficult task of confronting those whom we believe have sinned against us. Such confrontation is indeed hard, because it makes us as vulnerable as the one we confront. The process of confrontation means that we may well discover that we have been mistaken about our being wronged. Still more troubling, it means that even if we have been wronged, by confronting our brother or sister we will have to envision the possibility that, like Jonah, he or she may repent and we will therefore have to be reconciled. We will be forced to lose the subject of our hatred. “
We have this false perception that, because we are Christians everything should be easy and good. This is not a true reality for a Christian. Peace and love often rest in conflict. We forget that we follow a crucified Christ and we need reminding of who we are. There is suffering, but the weight of the cross that we ALL carry, was not meant to crush us, but to lift us up, above it. What we need to do is let it. We focus so much on our own difficulties that we forget one simple thing…. allowing God to love us. To sit in silence with the intimacy of his love, let it fill us up to overflowing, so that we can then spill it onto others and begin to love them in the same way that God loves and forgives us. This is what heals us. Like the prodigal son who did not look for forgiveness and found it and Peter ashamed of his behavior, and yet God had the angel call him out by name, through Mary Magdalene. Mark 16:7“But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'” Can you imagine how Peter felt after him denying Jesus 3x then to be called and forgiven by him? This is confrontation and who of us would dare to take up the challenge? It’s in these conflicts that we face our sandpaper, which smooth us out so that we can slip easily into the heart of God. This is love and love is sacrifice.