This past Sunday, we were blessed with the presence of the Reverend Sandra Douglas, a very passionate, in-your-face, wonderful deacon from our West Michigan Conference. Sandra brought to us a message that began our latest three-week mini-series on Conflict Resolution.
Sandra reminded us that we’re all created in the image of God; we all have that spark of the divine; we all have that remnant of God’s likeness. Now, as she also so bluntly stated, some of us are just hard to love! That is so true. And I will be the first to say that there are many times I am just downright unlovable. We all get that way- cranky, irritable, annoying, mean, and just plain nasty.
So how do we reconcile these two things: we are all created in God’s image, and many of us are hard to love? As Mark 12:28-34 commands, we are to love God and love our neighbor. We are to love God, and those who are His image bearers…even the hard to love ones.
Sin. It’s present in both our behaviors and our motivations. Too often, when we talk about sin, we focus more on our behaviors, on those things on the surface that are easy to see and pick out. Even when we begin talking about accountability partners- people that we hold ourselves responsible to- we really only focus on those surface things.
Why is that? Why do we insist only being so superficial? I think it has to do with not wanting to offend or hurt the other person; with not wanting to get our hands dirty. I’d go so far as to say we don’t really want to deal with the bigger issues in someone else because it means we may have to deal with our own deeper issues. And no one wants to do that. That’s the tough stuff. We are too afraid, to worried, to protective to allow someone else to see all those sins we hide so deep within. And even worse, in some twisted sense, we like our sins- we like being bad, we like our disobedience.
Our culture teaches that the purpose of having a relationship, whether friendly or romantic, is mostly about my happiness and fulfillment. And when a relationship no longer serves me and my needs? Well, then, they become disposable. I don’t have to work at making them better. I have every right to sever ties and move on to my next conquest. But you see, God calls us to have relationships with more meaning than that. Scripture teaches that our relationships are to be more than commonplace- they are to be radical in their nature and purpose.
In our ever-enlightened, twenty-first century freedom-focused culture, most people hear the word accountability, and cringe. We don’t like having to be held accountable for things; we don’t like people looking at our actions and judging them; and we certainly don’t get excited about the idea of being held responsible for all the less-than-holy things we think, say, or do. Many assume accountability is a joke because of how easy it is to hide our thoughts, manipulate our words, and justify our actions. Heck, even the government isn’t accountable to anyone anymore…so why should I be? And to accept that our actions have consequences for which we are responsible? That’s un-American!
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.