Another election has come and gone and it seems the political arena is more divided than ever. I saw a commercial that explicitly advertised, “Vote Republican”. It wasn’t about a particular candidate, it was promoting a political party. I often bounce between both conservative and liberal media sources to attempt to sort through the rhetoric. In doing so I see clearly how one can easily be swayed if you only hear one side.
Same is true in our churches and theological debates that have been ensuing for years. Both ends of the theological debate have convincing arguments. If we are deaf to one side and only hear the other, we quickly create a divided environment. Politics, theology, economics, education…there are many areas of life that can foster polarization if we only hear one side. We become convinced we and our side are absolutely correct.
In the midst of this reflection I got news that a dear friend and mentor passed away. Tim Morita was an accomplished member of the military and retired as a high ranking Navy chaplain. He also had one of the greatest pastoral hearts that I have known. I learned a lot working under him. He was a good man, generous and humble. These things I can say in complete sincerity, even though we never saw eye to eye all the time. I’m certain I drove him crazy with my questioning and strong opinions. We had many disagreements, but I came to respect the fact that he was always listening, with both ears. I had some strong views of the church and the issue we are facing as the church. We disagreed on a lot of it. After he retired from Olivet, he gave me a call. In visiting other churches he told me, “I see what you are talking about now.” We had several conversations after he retired and I was looking forward to our next one in December when he was supposed to return to Hawaii.
As I think about it, many of my mentors hold very different views than I do. Tim Morita, Larry Smith, Glenn Harada and many others. We see things differently, but they listened with both ears. They could hear both sides of the debate and respectfully hold to what they believed. That’s something I treasure and hope to reflect one day. I hope I will always be able to listen with both ears and make my decisions on what I hear on both sides, like my mentors do, like Tim did well.
I will always remember vividly my three children running to the door at the end of the hall. “Pastor Tim!!!”, with their tiny hands and faces pressed against the glass door. Then Tim pulling up a chair to offer up jelly beans and a great big smile.
I’ll see you again, at the end of the hall. Door wide open, just like your heart. -jason