Saturday, December 4, 2021

Dismantling Conflict

In the late first century, several whacky ideas arose in Christianity, which threatened to oddly change who Jesus was conceived to be. Philosophical ideas about holiness took a serious Platonic spin which separated the physical realm from the spiritual realm.  It did this to such a degree that in many of these theologies the physical was considered evil and the spiritual purely holy.  Hence, some Christian circles were repulsed by the idea that Jesus had any type of physical body or physical need.  So, around 700 CE (AD) the Church wrestled with what came to be recognized heresies like Monophysites and Manichaeism.  The Monophysites taught that Jesus had only one nature - spiritual, and in Manichaeism everything physical on this earth was evil (so Jesus could not have had a physical body.

In approximately 674 or 675 John of Damascus arrived on earth.  He was not born in a lowly estate like the majority of the Advent people I'm recognizing.  He was born to a wealthy Arab family and was highly educated but John got hooked on Jesus, abandoned his wealthy inheritance, and became a Christian monk. 

Because of the above philosophies, a substantial controversy in the Church arose over the veneration of images.  Icons had become a part of the adornment in churches across the Middle East.  The Manichaean/Monophysite influence detested these pieces of artwork and argued that venerating images was a corruption of the holy.  Other factions argued that "there should be no other gods before me."  John of Damascus wound up being that guy in the right place to arbitrate the conflict.  He wrote and spoke forcefully to the different sides and made clear the distinction between veneration vs. worship, between idol and respect for the sacred.  He spoke of venerating the representations/of the sacred in images but that we worship only God.

I believe God has given each of us a role to play in life.  Some are extra capable of mediating conflicts.  Even in the Realm of God, I believe there are going to be conflicts.  What sets conflicts apart in the Realm of God is how conflict gets settled.  In God's World, love reigns supreme. Profound degrees of respect for one another ground every conflict with the understanding that we all have the best expectation for each other and the future. Resolutions encircle the whole of the community in this Light and nobody gets left on the outside.

On this day - December 4, 749 John of Damascus died.  On this December 4th, we recognize and honor his conflict resolution and adoration of the Church.  His spirit is still pushing us to find a way to reconciliation and peace. 

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