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Embracing the Ambiguities

September 25, 2010

In our second session at the Reconcilers Weekend conference, Christine Pohl helped us to embrace the ambiguities and the tensions that we find in friendships at the margins — and lead us toward imagining how to build communities that yield authentic friendship.

Often when we form friendships at the margins, we are the ones who get to “control the space and the context,” she said. “We get to set the terms of the relationships.” So what happens when the friends that we make challenge the very terms that we have set?

Christine shared a story about Madu, a Sierra Leonean boy whom Revolutionary United Front rebels abducted and conscripted to fight. He was only 10 years old when he learned to fire an automatic weapon. In a single moment, Madu became the perpetrator of grievous crimes and also the victim of a manipulative power paradigm. This kind of exploitation convolutes our view of friendship. Our tendency may be to “keep our distance” and to “avoid the messy details” of these complicated relationships. But in no way should Madu be disqualified from friendship.

Christine shared that there is a holiness that is found in friendships filled with tensions. Jesus embraced these kinds of friendships. “When Jesus moved into the neighborhood … there was a lot of tension … He seems to have delighted in it,” Christine said. “It was costly, but it was where he chose to dwell. I don’t think we have to be afraid to follow him.”

If we are not willing to be vulnerable with our friends who have been both exploited and are exploiters, if we are not willing to recognize our own depravity, if we are not willing to be present with our friends where they are — then we are likely never to grow in those friendships. Our friendships will always remain shallow and homogenous.

God is always planting signs of hope amidst the divides (or the perceived divides). We can see that hope through embracing the tensions in our friendships.

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