February 3, 2009

Creating Space

The secret name for God in the ancient Jewish tradition of Kabbalah is “the wide space.” It refers to God’s desire to create space, in which life can flourish— in creation, in human relationships, in congregational life. The trinitarian life of God demonstrates that making room for others through self-giving is the divine way of life. God even includes the incarnate One, drawing our humanity into the divine life.

First Corinthians 8:13 offers guidance to a church in conflict over whether to eat meat offered to idols. While Paul acknowledges that eating or not eating such meat has no bearing on one’s status as a Christian, he urges those for whom this is no crisis of conscience to create space for those who are “weaker” in faith. What could be harder for autonomous persons to hear! Give up one’s liberty for the sake of another’s immature world view?! Persons today might be tempted to reply in no uncertain terms: “GET OVER IT!”

Paul’s instruction for the first century Corinthians and for contemporary Christians remains valid: “knowledge puffs up, while love builds up.” Superior knowledge must be subordinated to the responsibility of love; otherwise persons have no hospitable space in which to mature. The first step to conflict resolution is to take seriously the interests of another. It is the pathway to peace.

Next week I will attend the Global Baptist Peace Conference in Rome. There will be Baptist representatives from over 40 countries who will gather to practice skills of just peacemaking, conflict transformation, and hospitality. It will be an opportunity to participate in God’s redemptive mission as we create space for one another, allowing love to enter.

Molly T. Marshall

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