In the last few days, the Supreme Court of the United States of America issued a ruling on a divisive case. As with any case of this magnitude, you will have persons who choose sides and are heavily invested in the decision of the court and what it means for the country. The decision in this particular case was a unanimous decision, however there was some controversy on what was included in the opinion of the court. There was a 5-4 split on what was written. The court minority believed the majority was engaging in what they called “overreach.” The minority court members believed the opinion delved into and addressed issues they should have steered clear of. One particular court member said the temperature in this country needs to be “dialed” down.

Many, if not all, of us are guilty at times of “overreach” in how we address issues and situations. We go beyond the need to answer or respond to what is before us, and this contributes to the temperature of the conversation or situation being elevated. There is a lot of talk about the division in our country, and even world, in this current time. What do we as individuals do that contributes to this division?

When we veer from dialogue into diatribe, we are not only overreaching, we are unnecessarily elevating the temperature and the division. Many times the division becomes so deep, both sides become so entrenched, it appears there is no solution, no way to mend the rift.

Overreach occurs when we demonize the other side, when we resort to belittling, inciting, exaggerating, or otherwise painting those with whom we disagree, with too broad a brush.

As my father told me, “people, are people.” No more, no less, we are all the same. No, we don’t all think the same, act the same, look the same, or even love the same. But at our core, we are people. As people, we are all images of who created us. We each have God’s breath in us.

I happen to believe we could dial down the temperature in our national/world discourse if we start from the premise we are all God’s children. If we are going to be guilty of overreach, can we overreach in productive ways? How about we overreach in compassion for those who live on the margins of society? The homeless, those who live in poverty, members of the LGBTQ+ community, those who do not have adequate affordable healthcare, the elderly, the lonely, the cast aside. These are some who I believe would welcome our overreach to address their situation. All of us can agree there is a crisis at our border, but does the overreach have to look like razor wire? Could the overreach look like concern for the vulnerable who are seeking a better life? Could the overreach look like seeking humanitarian solutions, rather than scapegoating the situation for political gain?

Overreaching on our part does nothing to solve the problems we face. Overreaching merely contributes to the growth of divisions, and the discovery of a resolution even more difficult.

When engaging with others, Jesus didn’t employ overreach. He addressed the issue at hand. When bringing sight to the person who was blind, he didn’t overreach by discussing the person’s sins, or even the sins of the person’s parents. Jesus had compassion on the one who was blind and healed his blindness. No overreach. We read in John 9:1-7, “As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We[a] must work the works of him who sent me[b] while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.” Overreach would have let the discussion center on casting blame. Instead, Jesus addressed the issue of the man’s need, and the man gained his sight.

May each of us, in our own ways, refrain from overreach in our discourse, in addressing those we disagree with. May our attention be focused on the needs of those who are right in front of us. Just in case we forget, love always wins.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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