Reflections on Our Life Together


Life with others in any meaningful relationship requires commitment on behalf of all parties to a level of true caring that will require the very best from everyone, if the quality of that life together is to truly prosper.

Now, what would that look like? Growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s there were quite a few television shows, which were about families: Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It To Beaver are the two that immediately come to mind. And, although some of the situations which developed in those shows seem pretty far from today’s experience of family life (my mother never looked like Barbara Billingsley did unless she was going somewhere very special! And my father didn’t normally dress in a suit and tie).

Perhaps, for me, at least, those days (and I might be idealizing them a bit) were days when teachers in the public school system were respected; elders were called “Mr. Or Mrs. Or Miss”—never their first names—and we were trying to find the American Dream, and yes, share it with others.

For my family, we were more out of church than we were in it. Our roots were in the Swedish Lutheran Church on my father’s side, and my mother’s father was Roman Catholic, and my grandmother was Lutheran. When our families moved to the Midwest, we became Methodist, because there were no Swedish Lutheran Churches in Kankakee, Illinois. My parents had grown up during the Great Depression, and neither my mother’s family, nor my father’s family was wealthy. But, we did have a home and food, clothing, and love. And we were trying to find a way to real or genuine life. And like all real families (not like the idealized ones on TV), there were days when we got along famously with one another. And, on other days, there was conflict, occasional turmoil, anger, forgiveness, tears, and finally healing.

What every family has to figure out is by what set of values and principles they will live. American life today, at its worst, is very self-centered and individualistic. At its worst, there is no common respect for others, certainly not for the elderly, or school teachers, religious leaders, or community leaders. Somewhere between the 1940’s and today, a lot of that respect simply eroded. Along the way, between then and now, we learned that teachers weren’t always right, that not all grandparents cared, that not all religious leaders “walked their talk,” and that politicians (which is a word that in many places carries no respect at all) would kiss babies one day, but then try to steal their lollipops the next.

In some ways, we learned that people weren’t always what they were supposed to be. And with that loss of innocence, came a sense of bitterness and disillusionment. And while from time to time I yearn for “the good old days,” meaning the 1950’s and 1960’s, I know that if our world and community is going to become “better,” then each of us and all of us, need to work toward that end.

It is far easier to blame someone else, when things go wrong, than to take responsibility for our own actions. And it is far easier to blame others in authority when things go wrong, than it is to invest ourselves in making things better. To do that requires hard work and the willingness to love others, and to respect one another, and to help one another achieve the dreams, which we all want so desperately to come true.

I think it was Robert Shuler who said, “If it is to be—it is up to me!” meaning, “Don’t blame others if things go wrong. Look at yourself and do your best!”

As I close, I would leave us with these guidelines for life together in community, drawn from Paul’s letter to the Romans: Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; {10} love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. {11} Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. {12} Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. {13} Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. {14} Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. {15} Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. {16} Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. {17} Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. {18} If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. {19} Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” {20} No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 RSV)

The Waynedale News Staff

Reverend Chris B. Madison

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