Gospel: Souls and stomachs? & ‘Both/and’ but not always!
What’s all that about? If you are like me – a bit of a bridge – a peacemaker – you mostly want people to get along. Different people with different perspectives and sometimes people with different emphasis within the same perspective being helped to get along, understand and appreciate each other. All so they can reach a consenus ad idem (I am happily a failed accountant – took a bit of latin – failed it – more grounds for being a humble donkey). A consensus ad idem is a meeting of the minds. Potentially a beautiful thing. One of the most powerful tools in the peacemaking business is the highly effective and arresting – it’s not your way or his way! – it’s your way and his way – it’s both/and not either/or. This can be a light bulb moment for people. It can help them to see the other person’s side – its validity in part and its interplay with their side bringing about a restorative effect on battling parties.
As a peacemaker I have tasted the sweetness of this line and it’s powerful effect – but it can have an ego inflating effect also (sorry humble donkey). Partly due to such a consequence, it can also lead one to misuse it – to misunderstand when it has appropriate application and even to be a bit careless about its use. You can even end up using it to superficially resolve particular tensions or differences which do not warrant or allow resolution. In doing this we can end up flattening terrain that should be or has to be mountainous just because we have at our disposal some kind of mountain flattening machine which makes us feel a liitle bit high. Some things do not need resolving into one. To do so could dishonour and contort each thing. If that’s the principle – what the application?
We often see this melting, merging of two into one when applied to the life of the Christian. Many christians can emphasise one thing at the expense of another – when they are unwise to do so. For example, sometimes trust in God’s overall plan and prayer about a specific situation are pitched against one another. But it’s not trust in God’s sovereignty (God’s freedom in choosing, doing, being) at the expense of prayerfully seeking God’s help in a situation. It’s both/and. It’s trust and prayer. You see how that works. Both/and. It’s also like someone saying belief in Jesus is the only essential for salvation (a safe, beautiful eternal life with God) and someone else saying repentance (sorrow for dishonoring God through sin and turning life toward God) is the only thing necessary for salvation. Again another opportunity to resolve this either/or situation is presented. It is in fact both/and – repentance and belief – After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:14-15).
So both/and is often very useful, wise and necessary, particularly when we have pitched two compatible, complementary or sequential things against each other. Notice however, that in being both/and – we have not said the two things are the same thing. As if they were interchangeable because the differences are so minute. This is because they are not the same, not interchangeable. Their distinctness is important and their relationship to one another is important. They are connected but not carbon copies.
Both/and is a necessary piece of wisdom for peacemakers when two sides of the same coin have been pitched against each other as if they were actually sides of different coins. They are connected but not carbon copies. Both/and statements seek to highlight the connection and difference when wise to do so – when being pitched, in an inapproriate way, against each other. So in certain contexts both/and type understanding is necessary and wise but in other contexts it is wrongheaded, confused, confusing and unhelpful. Such a context would include where the two connected things are being forced to merge into one thing in the sense that distinction is ignored or downplayed and people now speak of either thing to mean the exact same thing. If clarity and restoration are some of the benefits to the correct and wise use of both/and, what are some of the consequences of getting this wrong?