“So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’” (John 21:23)
Rumors had to be addressed in Jesus’ community of disciples just as they do in ours today.
I will be the first to say that the community of God’s followers can be a very healing place to be. It is impossible for me to count the many times I have experienced both healing and renewal simply by being in the presence of my sisters and brothers in Christ.
But it is equally impossible for me to ignore that I also have experienced suffering at the hands of those who ascribe to the same faith as me.
Are you shocked that I would say this, or can you relate?
One of the most enduring things that I have learned and try to live by is the idea that I—we—should habitually aspire to bring people back to what is best or true. And while it is okay and even helpful to go off and check with another (perhaps someone whom we truly trust or sense has wisdom) about issues that affect community, if we do not learn how to then bring those conversations back to the shared table (the community), we are sabotaging our own best intentions.
Without keeping ourselves accountable to each other as a community, we will always struggle to reach our goal, which is to be made whole, to become one.
There is a plaque in my mother’s kitchen that reads “Jesus Christ is the head of this house, the silent listener of every conversation, the unseen host of every meal.” The point: As God’s baptized we have no real secrets, and mischief is not a fruit of the Spirit. Neither is spreading rumors.
Creating or sustaining a culture in which innuendos thrive and cliques of allegiance have more to do with judging the other than with reflecting God’s healing grace and endless mercy places a community squarely and clearly counter to our head, Jesus the Christ.
I confess it is easier to practice this kind of transparency with my husband and my close circle of women friends whom I trust with my heart and life than it is with my congregation or even my colleagues. Yet, I aspire to it. Our purpose statement reflects this back to us.
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice, Women of the ELCA.