On June 12, 1987, in one of the defining moments of recent world history, US President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate along the Berlin Wall and called upon the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall!” The eventual removal of that wall would end years of divide between East and West Berlin, ending years of suffering under communist tyranny for those trapped in the East, yearning to be free.
It is a disappointing reality that I have often, in my 13 years as CCS Logic School principal and 10 years as CCS Athletic Director, heard words of hesitation, reluctance, even fear, from CCS parents who want to and need to dialogue with a CCS coach, teacher, or administrator. It sometimes seems almost as though a physical wall separates one group from the other, school staff from parents. I confess that sometimes I too have succumbed to the voices in my head that rationalize the idea that things might be better if I just avoided talking to the one with whom I have a concern. But I know this is not how it is supposed to be, and I know that in reality, any concern I have that cannot easily be covered in love must be brought lovingly out into the light. Failure to do so not only “fails” pragmatically (molehills become mountains, problems that could be fixed with almost nothing more than a conversation become daunting trials), but worse, my failure to “go” may well be sin.
Is there a “wall” holding us back from successful communication?
Are we obliged to “tear it down”?
I submit that we are obliged, not you only, not me only, but all of us working together.
Principle 1: Jesus commands us to ‘Go’
One day when he was alone with his disciples, Jesus warned them to be careful not to cause offense (Matt. 18: 6-10), and yet acknowledges that offenses are bound to come. Jesus then gives the command: “Go”…more specifically, “go to your brother, just between the two of you.” More detail follows from Jesus regarding what to do if your brother will not listen, and elsewhere we find other vital details regarding how to conduct such communication (seeking the truth in love, quick to hear, slow to speak, even slower to wrath, and so on), but for now let’s focus on the clarity of the command. With no exceptions offered, no caveats or excuses (a popular one is “it will just make things worse!”), the instruction is “Go”. This is not to say that obedience to this instruction is easy, or that the rationalizations/fears we struggle with in avoiding obedience are irrational or abnormal (If I am normal and rational, then yes, the fears and rationalizations are too, for I have them in spades!), it is simply to say this: if we are offended (synonyms include hurt, concerned, upset, a grievance of any kind un-coverable by love), we ought to “GO.”
Principle 2: Obedience to Jesus works
Perhaps this statement should go without saying it, but say it we must. We need to talk! Your brother who coaches at CCS, your sister who teaches here, we all need your feedback, perhaps sometimes your correction or chastisement. We need the knowledge of where we are falling short that we do not often have unless you share it. If we have sinned, we need repentance and restoration. If we have more simply been careless or blind (in not knowing what we do not know), we need you to help us open our eyes. Perhaps Jesus commands us to “Go” not only for the sake of us being in loving fellowship, but also for the reality that institutions (churches, schools, homes) grow and flourish in part through loving communication, communication which sometimes holds us accountable for our promises and commitments to one another. When you or I “go”, the outcome, if our hearts are right, is that we “grow.”
Principle 3: Obedience to Jesus is loving our neighbor
We love you, you love us; we are at CCS a family and community rooted and grounded in love. Christ’s love in our hearts requires that everything possible must be done to live at peace with one another. “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)