A few months ago I (Kevin) was given the opportunity to attend a workshop on biblical hermeneutics. The conference was attended by sisters and brothers from around the world, discussing how the Bible is read in each of our own contexts. Throughout the week we were able to love, learn and share with one another. As you can imagine there were many differences and surprisingly many similarities. Sitting around the lunch table one day, our group from many different contexts discovered that the work and writings of Henri Nouwen had deeply affected us all. Today, I simply want to leave you with some of his words from Bread for the Journey.
A Nonjudgmental Presence
To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled to God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says is clearly, “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge;…do not condemn;…forgive” (Luke 6:36-37). In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.
Being Safe Places for Others
When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for all people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realize that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may then find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies. Many times this happens even without our planning. Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it. Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it.