The photo in the banner tells a story that still amazes me. It was taken in Brazil two weeks ago and during a wonderful conversation. Yes, that’s me on the left, and I am talking with my friends Leonardo, Michael, and Emerson. The conversation took place in Portuguese and that is amazing enough. My Portuguese is not that good, so I sometimes wonder if there isn’t some sort of modified Pentecost experience going on when I am with my Brazilian friends and we all understand each other.
As Leo, Michael, Emerson and I talked, our understanding of one another bridged more than the obvious divide of language, nationality, and age. Each of my three friends grew up with challenges I cannot imagine – economic, social, family, educational challenges so unlike any I have faced. I grew up in the suburbs of Southern California; they grew up in the poverty of urban Brazil. My world is a world of green lawns and safe streets, theirs of high walls, steel gates, and trafficantes.
As we sat and talked two Fridays ago, our conversation was rich and deep. We talked about politics and theology, our lives of joys and sorrows, and mutual friends and common concerns. We talked about faith and the reality of God’s presence and power in our world.
Our good conversation was the fruit of love, our brotherly love for one another in Christ. And because we love one another in Christ, the conversation was marked by:
An abiding trust – our friendship is a safe and secure place; no one trying to gain position or points, but rather the good of our brothers. We trust one another because we have stories to tell of our life with one another. I have known Leo and Emerson for nearly 16 years and Michael for three. We have been through some hard times together and, by the grace of God have not failed each other.
A common goal – “there are no right answers” is a phrase often heard as North Americans gather to talk. In fact there are right answers. One of the joys of being with Leo, Michael, and Emerson, is that each of us seeks right answers. Now, the right answer is not always apparent; it may be “it doesn’t really matter” or “it’s not for you to know right now,” but there is a right answer and you listen better and are more cautious about asserting your opinion when your common goal is not to win the debate but to to know God’s wisdom.
A high regard and deep respect for one another – whether we were talking about the impeachment politics of Brazil or the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and electing grace, our regard and respect is not built on shared opinions, but on a mutual understanding of the same God with the same Word calling us to the the same hope with the same high expectations. We are not wandering pilgrims whose paths have crossed for some short time, but brothers in Christ whose lives are now connected for eternity and for whom “you go your way and I’ll go mine” is an anathema. By God’s grace there will be another conversation among us at some table somewhere; if not this side of glory then on that other side.
The photo tells an amazing story. I don’t know why I have been given the privilege of being a part of it, but I am so thankful that I have.
And I am thankful for tables in Langhorne, PA, where we sit and talk for a while about important things with people we are privileged to call brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that my contribution to the conversation is worthy of the One who calls us to those conversations and is always sitting in one them.