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Thoughts on Strife and Unity  
Living Spiritually in an Arguing World

This is God's world, a world so important that God does whatever it takes to show us his commitment and unconditional love. Each one of us
you and I—are challenged to resist false separations, barriers, walls that threaten to divide and isolate ideas, peoples, principles, and reality.
-The Rev. Dr. Robert Hansel,
Caesar's or God's?

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
—Proverbs 10:12

If I can understand something of myself and something of others, I can begin to share with them the work of building the foundations for spiritual unity. But first we must work together at dissipating the more absurd fictions which make unity impossible.
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

… Mindfulness has the power, has the capacity of helping us to recognize what is there in the present moment. When anger is there, we recognize the fact that anger is there. When fear is there, we recognize the fact that fear is there. And the practice is not to fight, to suppress, but to recognize and to embrace…
—Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindfulness of Ourselves, Mindfulness of Others


How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.
Psalm 133

As long as we are right, no spring will come. We must let doubts about our rightness thaw our coldness so that God can turn over the hard, trampled ground of our hearts. This is the choice: fear or love; revenge or newness; the cycle of violence or the circle of reunion. Porter Taylor, From Anger to Zion: An Alphabet of Faith

We to need to have the presumptuous faith… to ask Jesus to come, to come to this nation and to this world, and to heal us of the many ills that impoverish us, divide us and keep us from the vitality and leadership that we are capable of having. Then we need to be willing to stay when Jesus asks us to, to stay and to become an active and committed part of the healing process we are longing for.…The Rev. Margaret B. Gunness
A Child, A Nation and Healing


For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; He adorns the humble with victory.
Psalm 149:4

The power of love builds communities that can exert great force in a society. It takes great strength to build community. To enable community means to set aside one's own agenda and allow the needs and concerns of the entire community to set the agenda. To nurture community means to accept blame without becoming so defensive that one's reaction becomes destructive. You know one problem with community—there's always someone who just irritates the fool out of us. Nurturing community means learning to tolerate and ultimately to appreciate that irritating person. To nurture community means to give lots of praise to others, to share tasks with others when you could really do better, and to express thanks to others for their contributions. The Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, The Power of Community


When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he said that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That word “endure” can mean “to last,” but it can also mean “to put up with a lot.” Love lasts precisely because it puts up with a lot. Forbearance goes deeper than civility or niceness, both of which have to do with a thin crust of appearances. Relationships that are “nice” or “civil” can remain shallow. But forbearance risks going deeper.
—The Rev. Stephen Montgomery,
We Hear a Lot about Being Kind


He who excels as a soldier is the one who is not warlike; he who fights the best fight is not wrathful; he who best conquers an enemy is not quarrelsome; he who best employs people is obedient himself. This is the virtue of not-quarreling, this is the secret of bringing out other men’s ability, this is complying with heaven.
Lao Tzu, in Prayers for Peace
Sixth Century, B.C.

  Each party needs the opportunity to voice fears, hurts and concerns. We clear the weeds of our hearts by naming, admitting and talking about them. So often our wars are based upon misinformation, misconceptions and misunderstanding. The experience of being heard and understood is the furrow into which the seeds of love can later be sown. —Albert Haase,O.F.M , Reflections on the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Walk in such a way that peace becomes a reality in every cell of your body, in every cell of your consciousness, because our consciousness is also made of cells. Mental formations, feelings, perception—they're all the cells of our consciousness. And when we breathe peacefully, the peace of our breath will penetrate into our body and into our mind. Then very soon, in no time at all, body, mind, and breath will become one in concentration, and we'll get the energy of stability, solidity, and freedom generated by every step we make. —Thich Nhat Hanh, Walking with Peace and Presence
The dread of being open to the ideas of others generally comes from our hidden insecurity about our own convictions. We fear that we may be “converted”- or perverted- by a pernicious doctrine. On the other hand, if we are mature and objective in our open-mindedness, we may find that viewing things from a basically different perspective—that of our adversary—we discover our own truth in a new light and are able to understand our own ideal more realistically. Thomas Merton from “Blessed Are the Meek” in Thomas Merton Essential Writings


All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. . .
—2 Corinthians 5:18

Now more than ever, the world needs the contribution of those who are gifted in healing the rifts between us. This is a work that carries risk, for it requires both humility and vulnerability. To be a reconciler is to put away ego and pride, and to focus on our common humanity as children of God. This doesn’t mean that there will never be times when we have to make a stand....What it does mean, however, is that we have chosen not to sever our ties or to write the other off; we may have agreed to disagree on an issue, but the relationship remains intact. In following this path, we are taking a step into the Kingdom of God, acknowledging that the one who made us loves and treasures us all.

O God, deliver me from the burden of having to be “right,” and help me to become a reconciler, a healing presence in the world.
—Susan Hanson


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