Seeking Common Ground

Why seek common ground?

Artwork created from bottle tops by Western Sydney University students of different backgrounds and faiths showing their common concern about climate change.

Circle Advocate Rev Dr Amelia Koh-Butler reflects on what makes seeking common ground hard, and why it’s always worth pursuing. 

A few years ago I was involved with a bunch of radical disciples who birthed a new community. It’s called ‘The Commons’ in Newcastle, NSW. The founders were inspired by Acts 2:42-47.

The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

There are plenty of people I find it difficult to share with. I get uncomfortable when I don’t know customs or food types. I don’t like to have to conform to other people’s dress codes and I struggle with differentiating behaviours towards women and men. Nevertheless, I recognise that the world is bigger than me. I admit that the world is not made in my image and I am not the centre of the universe.

I am in awe of the One who was born, lived and died for the sake of people who seem like such strangers to me. Surely, they must be worth getting to know more about! God loved and loves others. They are made in God’s image. As I get to know them, I may be privileged enough to see the revelation of God’s image in their lives. They may be gracious enough to teach me of their experiences of God. Surely we want more of these stories?

Over the last two months, I have had the opportunity to get to know Fred. He helps me with the Soup Kitchen at The Uni where I am a Chaplain. Fred is Jewish and each Thursday he serves at least 30 Muslim students soup. I have had the opportunity to listen to Muslim and Christian scholars exchange understandings about Adam, Eve and Creation. I have been part of a study group with Buddhist, Catholic and Pagan members. Together, we have encouraged one another to use our gifts in service to others.

I do not claim to be the same as ‘others’. I stand firm in my commitment to share the Gospel as I know and experience it, but I am learning to listen and learn in new and fresh ways. I am delighted to discover fresh questions and rich ideas about God and what is sacred.

This is the ‘risky’ part of ‘risking the way of Jesus’. To keep discovering that God is beyond the limits of my imagining.

If we are to strive towards the renewal and reconciliation of all things as the promised end, we need to accept that ‘relationships with others’ must be part of that end. We can do it sooner or later, but we are called to be in those relationships that bring all into God’s harmony. God’s Shalom. Eventually, we must be willing to look for the image of God in the faces of those we do not yet know.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Amen