Have you ever seen the old television show “The Odd Couple”?
For those of you who haven’t seen the 1970’s sitcom, Wikipedia offers this brief description: “The plot concerns two mismatched roommates: the neat, uptight Felix and the slovenly, easygoing Oscar.”
On Thursday of this past week, (June 29), the Church commemorated the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul. The liturgical resource “Sundays & Seasons” called them an “odd couple” to share a commemoration.
For those who need a refresher: “The plot concerns two mismatched apostles: the early following, tradition-bound, Jewish focused Peter and the late convert, missionary zealot, Gentile focused Paul.”
Though different in approach and belief, they were united in their faith in Jesus Christ. Their differences came from their shared willingness to sacrifice, to give their lives, to endure death, for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel.
It occurs to me that we all could learn a great deal from this commemoration. Differences, and even disagreements, have the power to advance the kingdom and nation.
If Peter had been more like Paul – where would the connections be to our Jewish foundations? Would Christianity have developed in a way completely divorced from our Jewish roots?
If Paul had been more like Peter – would there even be a Christian church throughout the world? Would Christianity have remained a reform tradition within the Jewish faith and the gentiles would never have heard the message of Jesus?
In their unique ways they told the story of the one who himself was criticized for the relationships he formed. Jesus dined with tax collectors and commended the faith of a centurion – symbols of the oppressive Roman government.
In our sin we demand conformity. We withdraw into friendships and social circles of people who are similar, comfortable, and familiar. We are increasingly suspicious and dismissive of people who hold different viewpoints and attitudes. Social scientists describe Confirmation Bias – the way in which we validate information that confirms what we believe, while we discard and reject information that challenges us.
What do odd couples look like today? Maybe something like:
+ a conservative Senator and a liberal Senator forging a political relationship dedicated to responding to the problems of our healthcare system and proposing effective reform.
+ a lifelong church member developing a relationship with one of the newest church members to explore ways in which the traditions of the congregation can inform and guide new approaches and outreach.
+ two neighbors who may have nothing in common other than the street they live on, and may disagree on just about everything, nevertheless choosing to eat with one another at least once a month in order to stay connected and learn more from one another.
As followers of Jesus, we are ambassadors of reconciliation. Faith doesn’t invite us inward and away from others, but outwards and towards. It calls us into odd, and awkward, and even difficult relationships for the sake of healing and life.
Who is the Holy Spirit calling you into relationship with today?