Monday, September 01, 2008

Still Friends

A high school pen-pal assignment brought together two girls from very different parts of the world. Both were excited to find long distance friendship, and when the semester was over they decided to keep on writing. At least once a month their notes and cards crossed the Atlantic.

Fifty years later the English lass flew to California, and they met. The local newspaper chronicled their longtime friendship in a feature column. It sounded so nice, all except that one paragraph towards the end. “The unspoken rule had been ‘no politics and no religion’ and so the sharing back and forth had been about daily household life.”

Stunned, I reread the article. What a waste of life, I decided. Imagine what important views of local and world history could have been written down. Think how the two could have deepened their friendship. Struggles could have been honestly discussed and now treasured. Perhaps ideals could have been examined, and perspective deepened.

I thought of how it could have been. Surely they could have been still friends.

“Elizabeth, my heart breaks to think of the terrible circumstances you face with the bombing so near. How are you making it through?”

“Dee, I was shocked to hear about the devastating forest fire so close to your home. How is it affecting you personally?”

Why was such a barrier erected and maintained all those years?

“Well, I would insist on those same restrictions,” you may interject. “My deeply held beliefs are my own business.”

And I would question if you are still friends. Possibilities of misunderstandings are always present, speaking in person or in writing. Why settle for shallow trivia for conversation? Can we not venture forth with our latest comments about politics? Can we not openly ask each other about matters of faith?

Must there be suspicions and conflict? Is either person so uncertain that he or she cannot put into words a political or religious opinion?

Could an exchange of ideas bring one or the other person additional information? Is there nothing new to learn, nothing in the past to be recalled? Could both profit from the mental skills in examining alternative possibilities?

If someone kindly and correctly points out some flaw in my reasoning or some missing ingredients in my argument am I to pretend that I am perfect, and need no help at all?

Mama’s “because I said so” was adequate with the three year-olds, and my own “because that’s the school’s rule” gave me some dictatorial clout when I taught third grade, but now we can consider freedom in the pursuit of important ideas.

Please tell me your point of view and your source of facts in the political arena. This is a very important election year. And please tell me what your beliefs about God and Jesus are. It’s life and death, and such a fine topic for friends to smile and share.

Can we still be friends?

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Jesus told two stories about friends in Luke 15: 3-9. His points included these: friends care, listen, and celebrate when the problem is solved.

Jesus calls us His friends when we obey Him. “You are my friends if you do what I command . . . Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:14-17, NLT

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