Conflict, Mythologies, and Love

My family and I recently flew out to Arizona to spend Christmas with my wife’s parents and family. They live in the Sonoran desert where it is literally 40 miles to the nearest grocery store. The desert is always beautiful but I must say that the thin blanket of snow that fell on our last full day there was gorgeous.

Seeing family over the holidays is always wonderful but travelling can sometimes be trying. Our trip out to Arizona was no exception. The delays, the foggy airport, or even sitting on the tarmac for 45 minutes while a radio was replaced in the cockpit was not the most unusual moment for me on the trip. On one leg of our trip I sat behind a young lady and an older gentleman. Somehow a misunderstanding took place between them and harsh words were exchanged. She was clearly uncomfortable so I passed her a note offering to trade seats with her. She accepted and what happened for the next hour was totally unexpected.

The gentleman next to me in my new seat did not speak at first and I figured he might have been a bit embarrassed over what had happened earlier, so I just sat quietly. When the beverage cart came around that seemed to break the ice so I struck up a conversation with him. I had no idea what was coming. On airplanes I usually avoid telling people what I do for a living because it can get superficial fast. As soon as people find out I am a pastor they either start telling me all about their Aunt Martha who is a preacher or how they are a very spiritual person but have no need for organized religion and I never get to meet the real person to whom I am talking. But I was somehow off my game! I did it… instead of my pat answer, “I’m sort of a life coach.”, or “I teach people to laugh, love, dream, and live happily!” I blurted it out… “I’m a pastor.”

Everything is sort of a blur after that. The person next to me launched into a 45 minute sermon about America becoming the Whore of Babylon, all about the evils of women preaching in our churches, the spirit of Jezebel in the pulpit, how the doctrine of the Trinity was a lie, and a whole host of other theological positions with which I vehemently disagree. So what did I do?

I sat there and listened. I sat and prayed. I sat and found small areas with which we could agree, like for instance, we need

Snow-covered cactus, photo: Faith E. Winn

Snowy Cactus. photo: Faith E. Winn

our men to be better fathers and our churches to help the downtrodden.

Why didn’t I speak up for the Trinity, why didn’t I confront the misogynist doctrines, why was I silent in the face of such mythological ideas about God? I was silent for the sake of the very Gospel we preach. I kept my views to myself for the sake of love.

How often have we been wrong? How often have we spouted off about something only to find out months or even years later that we were wrong? I have been where this man was. I have held many of the same views at one time in my life and, on that flight, I heard no instruction from Holy Spirit to do anything but sit and listen. We don’t have to argue for the Trinity, we don’t have to defend Jesus; we don’t have to always engage in conflict for the sake of the Gospel. If The Father, Son, and Spirit are who they say they are, if the Gospel is in fact true, if Jesus is truly the Great I AM who alone knows the Father and wills that we come to know him with his Father- then God will see this man liberated from his mythologies in due course. My prayer is that on that flight this man’s memory will not be of confrontation but of peace and love. It was Christmas Eve after all!

You see, God will always meet us where we are. Jesus is Immanuel- God with us! He is with us all even while we hold to a convoluted belief system. George MacDonald once wrote, “Good souls many will one day be horrified at the things they now believe of God.” So that is you and I too friends… I sincerely hope that someday you and I will look back and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I thought so little of Jesus, I am amazed at how infinitely good and gracious the Father, Son, and Spirit truly are!”  Father, may our new year be filled with wonder and awe as we discover more and more how deeply you love us and how completely you have accepted us in Jesus. Amen


12 comments so far

  1. Richard Pullin on

    Bill, well written! You listened. You prayed. You found agreement. You didn’t confront. You showed grace towards him. Our view of God is always forming, I agree. In fact many of our views, are still “mythological” and will continue to be. Mythology can be helpful though as CS Lewis contended, and don’t forget the pagan Greeks helped us form our current understanding of the Trinity.

  2. billwinn on

    Thank you Richard your words are very encouraging. Indeed showing grace is that to which we are called.

  3. Tom Smith on

    Proud of you Bill. I’m afraid my tongue would have been much shorter from all the bite marks. Great lesson in listening.

    • billwinn on

      Thanks Tom.

  4. Beloved on

    Sounds like his religious beliefs (like most Christians) are based upon fear. Fear of an angry God who is out to get us because when it really boils down to it, we are bad and we know it. We just hope the poor soul standing next to us at the Pearly Gates is worse by comparison, so God “let’s us in”. If only we could grasp just a small revelation of this God, who IS love. God is always loving us into greater freedom. I’m so glad that you felt free and loved enough not to feel obliged to “evangelize” this man. God let this man sit next to you on the plane for a reason, so He could love him through you.

  5. billwinn on

    Very well spoken Beloved. Indeed God is love and will not be so without us. You are very correct… by the way you may not know it but that’s classic Karl Barth!
    Blessings, Bill

  6. Carole Parker on

    You were placed in that seat not to preach, but to reach. Often times it is silence that speaks the loudest, and when you made the choice to listen and be silent, it showed him that through our yielding to The Holy Spirit, the character of God can be shown. He learned much from you that day, mostly, not to be quick to judge, patience, love, peace and tolerance. God is a “Gentlman”. He never forces Himself upon anyone. You were a “Gentleman”.

  7. iamjean9 on

    Loved this, Bill! – Jeannine

  8. billwinn on

    Thank you Carol. I like that. I may borrow it. Papa is a gentleman indeed.

  9. billwinn on

    Thanks Jeannine, hi to the folks for me!

  10. Carrie Smith on

    Oh so true! Thank you for sharing Bill. What a great reminder that we are participating in God’s work in the lives of those around us. And sometimes that participation is listening.

    • billwinn on

      Thanks Carrie. Listening is indeed participation!

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