Momany: The real battle

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The most intense battles we ever fight are the ones within our hearts. We may try to avoid language of conflict, but confrontation is real – perhaps most real in our own person. What values will animate our hearts, our minds, and our actions?

During this time of conflict within many church organizations (not only The United Methodist Church) and throughout our culture, I have concluded that love is the most difficult choice in life. It is so because love is never, ever, ever a soft thing. It is principle and poise and consistency on behalf of others. Will we be led by fear and externalizing of opposition or by hearts centered on God in Jesus Christ?

I know. This is a very vague – at least for those of us who want to get specific with our viewpoints. I refrain from naming the issues that divide us because I believe, in the end, there are really only two value systems: one that turns everyone and every statement into a means for advancing an agenda and one that meets others as people for whom God in Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose. Period.

In the discipline of modern philosophical ethics, the first approach is termed “consequentialism.” It is a strategy that projects goals, aims, desires and then measures everything (and all-too-often, everyone) against these aspirations. The second is an approach that some associate with rigid moral codes, but it is really about meeting others respectfully, gracefully. Yes, since the 1970s scholars have been telling us that modern moral philosophy or ethics is dead. We risk ridicule by speaking in terms of these two contrasting attitudes. But that does not mean we cease to reflect them in our lives.

I find the second perspective more compelling. I have also concluded that it is resented by our culture. I have learned that in God’s value system, people possess an “intrinsic worth.” Sadly, our culture attempts to impose an instrumental value on people. Instrumental value is the kind of worth posited when others can be made tools of one’s agenda. It is, at root, abusive. Few people will openly deny the “intrinsic worth” of others, but every time we tell one another that our value is determined by “usefulness” or power or wealth, we are denying “intrinsic worth.” This can happen on either the left or the right, by the way.

I would go so far as to argue that valuing others as ends in themselves is a sign of God’s Kingdom. Valuing others according to self-serving, instrumental calculations is a sign of our world’s fallen condition. This does not mean that God hates the world, for God so loved the world – in spite of its twisted value system. Someday the way of valuing that announces God’s Realm will rule with equity and – yes – love.

Each night Kim (my wife) and I read Scripture together before falling asleep. Then we talk for a moment about the implications and promises among the text. She has battled life-threatening diseases for more than twenty years, and now she is engaged in a battle with cancer. Yet we both know that the most intense battles take place within our hearts. Will we live as those announcing God’s Kingdom or as those placing things and agendas above people?

IntrinsicWorthGradOne striking witness encouraged me recently. During our college commencement, two exceedingly competent leaders of the graduating class surprised me by sharing the customized artwork on their mortarboards. Atop their heads they wore the words, “Intrinsic Worth.” This is not a cliché. It is a conviction that will cost them. Yet they are not confused about their values, and they inspire me to reach for a world that seems beyond the horizon.

Chris Momany, UMR Columnist

Chris Momany

Chris Momany has been chaplain and director of church relations at Adrian College since 1996 and has taught in the Department of Philosophy/Religion since 1998. He is an ordained United Methodist minister, and a graduate of Adrian College, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Drew University. His academic interests focus on Christian ethics and philosophy. He has been published in the Christian Century, the Wesleyan Theological Journal, The Asbury Theological Journal, the Circuit Rider magazine, the United Methodist Reporter, and other venues. Chris also writes for the Daily Bible Study curriculum of the United Methodist Publishing House and for MinistryMatters, an online ministry resource. His book on the Wesleyan ethic of love and justice bears the title, Doing Good: A Grace-Filled Approach to Holiness. Chris has led many conferences, workshops, and continuing education events. For several years he has combined his research and teaching with a focus on human trafficking. Today it is estimated that 27 million people are held as slaves throughout the world. Chris has been a national leader among college and church professionals in confronting this issue.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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