Monday, September 28, 2009

The Grass That Suffers: Intolerable Ignorance

The Grass that Suffers: Intolerable Ignorance

Bits & Pieces reports: “Years ago, a large statue of Christ was erected high in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile. Called "Christ of the Andes," the statue symbolizes a pledge between the two countries that as long as the statue stands, there will be peace between Chile and Argentina. Shortly after the statue was erected, the Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted -- the statue had its back turned to Chile. Just when tempers were at their highest in Chile, a Chilean newspaperman saved the day. In an editorial that not only satisfied the people but made them laugh, he simply said, ‘The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans (June 25, 1992).’”

Sometimes it seems that the people who should be the most at peace with one another, experience the greatest degree of struggle. Family members struggle for supremacy over each other. Fellow Christians worship with one another on Sundays, and tear each other apart the rest of the week. Like neighboring countries prone to conflict, we need Jesus to watch over us and keep the peace.
Far from the saintly icons we see in stained glass, Jesus’ disciples were not immune from petty squabbles. Mark chapter 8 relates Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah. The Matthew version (16:13-20) adds Jesus’ praise, and seeming elevation of Peter’s status among the disciples. After that, Jesus invited only his favorites, Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration, leaving the other disciples at the foot of the mountain. It is no wonder, then, that in Mark 9 Jesus finds the disciples arguing about who is the greatest.

Arguments always begin with ignorance. This was true for the disciples, and it is true for us. First, they did not realize that “God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34 NLT).” Second they could not understand Jesus’ mission. In Mark 9:31-32 Jesus “said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.’ They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.”

They didn’t understand—but they didn’t really want to understand, either. How often I have engaged in argument when I didn’t really want to understand! I needed to learn from St. Francis, who prayed, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to…to be understood, as to understand.” Instead, even when a lightbulb went off in my head and I realized I was wrong, I continued arguing my point, just so I could win! I’m sure you’ve done the same.

Petty arguments always arise out of ignorance. Next week, we’ll continue in Mark’s story to find out the parts that denial and pride have to play in our disagreements. The next time you’re in an argument, instead of trying to win, try to understand. God will bless you for it.

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