Most people have the overwhelming tendency to consider their way the best: My ethnicity, my nationality, my denomination, my doctrine, my list of do’s and don’ts….
Sometimes, there rises in me an almost animalistic impulse to triumph in my argued point, as if winning an argument or forcing my opinions on someone would somehow solve the world’s problems and achieve world peace.
Yesterday, the Little Darda Church was visited by a group of Roma missionaries from Western Europe. They told us they had been previously focusing on the Sinti Roma in Croatia, but as most of them had either migrated to Germany or were closed to the gospel, they felt called to begin evangelizing other Roma groups.
This could be an answer to our prayers. Unlike Serbia, which has a growing movement of Roma churches, Croatia has only a few groups of people working in Roma communities, and our church has the only Roma pastor.
Languages abounded in our meeting—different dialects of Romani, French, Italian, Serbian, and Croatian. My head felt dizzy with the richness of language and culture present in the small circle.
Beliefs and doctrine were discussed, as well as methods of mission and discipleship. On the whole, we agreed to foster relationship for the sake of the Kingdom of God, in the hopes that more home groups and churches could be started in Croatia among the Roma.
There was one prominent difference, however—their distinction between Gadjo (non-Roma) and Roma. I have spoken often of the discrimination and prejudice that exists toward the Roma in Europe. Less frequently have I mentioned the prejudice that sometimes goes the other way, toward the Gadjo. However, this has certainly been a minority of my own experiences in Roma communities. My two friends, the pastors of the Little Darda Church, certainly do not think this way.
To diffuse the tension of this distinction, the pastor of Little Darda Church jokingly referred to myself and my Croatian coworker as “true and complete Gypsies.” Later, as he welcomed our guests in front of the church, he made a point to say that we were a church for all peoples— a church concerned for all people in Croatia, not just Roma.
Lately, I’ve been thinking that the only real way to hold together tenuous partnerships which differ in culture, denomination, ethnicity, nationality, and doctrinal stances is to submit—over and over—to the supremacy of love in the guise of humility. And this, of course, is only possible by being “in Christ”—a point also made by the pastor yesterday as we were wrangling over doctrinal beliefs.
“It is Christ, only Christ, in the center, ” he said, as to why he, a Pentecostal, works with Baptists and others.
Paul writes to the Ephesians about the social implications of the “summing up of all things in Christ” as it played out between the Jews and Gentiles: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace…”
Somehow, we continue to miss the revolutionary reverberations of this in our own social contexts.
Listening in humility to those who are different than us acts as a check-and-balance to our superiority complexes.
This is tricky, however, and a constant negotiation of wisdom of when to speak and when to be silent, when to push an important point, and when to acquiesce. Active love is not a passive “whatever keeps the peace,” but a moment-by-moment decision of how it plays out in a particular context and situation. Maybe it can come down to two simple questions we can ask ourselves: “Do I think my way is better right now? Why do I need to be right?”