When my freedom to live in a colour independent world and your freedom to live in a colour dependent world collide, we have a problem. One of the troubling solutions to that problem in much of North America is for us to start shouting at each other about our respective rights. The process fairly quickly escalates: we begin to push and shove, sometimes physically and sometimes legally but more and more often through the media. Generally, the collision of competing freedoms results in pain, confusion and more collisions.
As a Christian, I think we need to be willing to look beyond the socially normal practises that we so easily adopt to settle our issues. If we are going to claim to follow Jesus, we probably need to actually try to apply his words to our life situations. And so, facing the clash of competing rights and freedoms, I look to him for some words of wisdom. My preferred choice would be words from Jesus that support my particular desire, or at least words that I can beat into shape to support my desire.
Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t have much to say about colour-blindness so I can’t really quote him as supporting my desire for a colour independent world. So, I have to actually look at his teaching and do some thinking, praying and work a bit–although it isn’t all that hard a task to discover Jesus’ teaching on clashing desires. Jesus actually has quite a bit to say on that topic.
One of the foundational sayings comes from Matthew 22.39, where Jesus uses an Old Testament quotation to answer a question about the most important commandments. After reminding the inquirer that the first command is to love God completely, he tells him the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. As I have worked at this sentence over the years, I have come to deeply appreciate the layers and layers of truth here.
One layer deals with the complex interactions between competing human realities. Jesus isn’t supporting my need for colour-independence nor the prevailing colour-dependence in our culture. Rather, he is calling for an interdependence and mutual responsibility that benefits all. Instead of “either-or”, Jesus is calling for us to work things out in an atmosphere of mutual respect and concern and appreciation. I have to love my neighbour not at the expense of loving myself but in the same way I love myself.
Seen from this perspective, the ultimate question isn’t who wins in the clash of desires but how we can mutually and respectfully work towards a solution that works for all involved. This is a much more difficult process than making enough noise and causing enough confusion so that in the end, one side or the other gains some sort of victory. Jesus’ solution requires that we engage with others to find a mutually acceptable solution, a solution that may not give anyone exactly what they want but which will allow them to develop a much stronger relationship with each other and with God.
Of course, this is just Bible talk, which we know has no real connection with the realities of life where winning is everything and my desires are my rights. But given the reality that our western culture is becoming increasingly fragmented, increasingly fractious, increasingly violent and increasingly unworkable, we just might want to look at these words of wisdom as a better way.
The current direction of our culture leads us into a dystopian future where every left-handed, colour-blind, bearded, 60+ Jeep driving male runs the world–of course, every right handed, colour seeing, clean shaven, 20+ Prius driving female is also running the world which means that we are going to spend a lot of time fighting.
Jesus’ way is hard because it requires us to work together to find a balance between what we think we must have and what others think they must have. If we love each other, we engage in a give and take–I will memorize the position of the traffic light I can’t distinguish because the present colour dependent system works better than anarchy. But if you give me directions to your house, give me the civic number not the colour and tell me that there are two maples and a pine tree in the front.
If I love my neighbour as myself, I will be concerned with a solution that benefits us both and will be willing to give up something so that we both gain.
May the peace of God be with you.