“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
What Momma Said
It may come as a shock to you, but my only brother and I disagree about politics. This probably never happens in your family, but it happens in mine. We usually disagree agreeably, but not always. One day my brother posted on Facebook a degrading picture of a politician he deeply dislikes. The caption under the photo was both shaming and denigrating, and if said to someone’s face, would be considered cruel. In the vein of going along to get along I usually ignore such posts, but this time I couldn’t help myself.
It was late in the evening and a wiser person would have turned off their computer and gone to bed. But not this time, and not me. I scrolled down to the bottom of responses that piled on the nastiness, until I saw my name with a blank space for comment.
I didn’t argue with my brother. He’s my only brother, and the only person on the planet who remembers our childhood. And as different as we are from one another, I love him dearly. Most often when we talk, I ask questions and listen. What does he hope for the future through this leader? What will we gain as a people if we go down this path rather than that? At first, he’s reluctant to say, testing the water to see if I’m trying to pick a fight.
Eventually though, he starts to talk, and I gain my brother, learning more about his fears in the present and his hope for the future. At the end of the day, the person who wins any given election for a few years can never be as important to me as the brother I’ve had all of my life. On this occasion though, I had something to say, not to change him, but to affirm what I believe. So I said something like this…
Dear Brother, we were raised by the same mother. Our mother would never have permitted us to speak ill of another human being. You remember how she always told us that if we couldn’t find something nice to say about somebody, it was best to say nothing at all. You remember how she taught us that when we criticize other people, those words come back on us, as if we were talking about ourselves and our character rather than theirs. You remember how she and Dad took us to church and Sunday School and youth group every week of our lives, and taught us to love one another even when we didn’t feel like it, to share our toys because they were given by God to be shared, to stand up for the underdog, the kid with a disability, that poor girl from across the tracks, treating them like family. You remember how Mom taught us that it was more important what you gave than how much money you kept, and that everything we’ve received comes from God and returns to God for the good of everybody.
You remember how Mom and Dad together taught us to love God with everything we’ve got and to love one another with as much love and compassion as we give to ourselves. Why? Because Jesus said acting like that would lead to a better life. Love, Your Sister
I’d like to say that my brother wrote back to me, that he affirmed what I said, that he picked up the phone from across the miles and offered a virtual hug. But that didn’t happen. On the other hand, he doesn’t post stuff like that on Facebook anymore. He posts jokes and photos of where he and his wife went to dinner, and what the kids and grandkids are doing at school.
It's been a while since that social media exchange. I admit that saying something was hard, and that I worried about how my brother would receive it. Yet in the end, my brother and I resumed our affection, telling stories from time to time over the fiber optic lines between us, bound together by a common love of God and family that no political difference will shake.
Prayer: God of Heaven and Earth, help us remember today who we are and whose we are. Amen
God’s grace, mercy and peace,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
The Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida