It’s hard to love people who don’t share your values, but it’s our Christian call to try.
They were legally blocked from using a rabbit. They considered a cow and a horse, even a frog. But Walt Disney and his colleagues went with a mouse named Mortimer, though the name would be tweaked before his 1928 debut in “Steamboat Willie,” the first cartoon with synchronized video and sound. So it was Mickey Mouse who first spoke to us as though he were a human being.
But if the question is what animal do we humans most resemble, the choice is clear. Not an eagle, a bear or even a chimp. We are clams.
We are clams because we cannot help but live in our enclosed worlds. We dwell within our protective shells, safe from what might harm us but certainly not fully open to what lies beyond. Indeed, we are challenged even to believe stories of a land above the waters that we know.
Within those shells, the worlds in which we live, are those whom we love, and nothing is more painful to us than experiencing a division with one of our loved ones. Outright conflict might even be easier. We move well enough from love to hatred. No, the great sorrow is loving someone who does not love what we love, who does not share our values.
Some examples. Someone we love begins to love someone we could never love. We are sure that our own loved one will be hurt, and that fear causes us great pain. Or think of the parent who deeply loves the faith and who cannot think of the child not practicing the same. What of the child, who rejects the very shell from which it emerged? To be an adult means staying far from parents, safe within its new shell.
The heart was not made for division, and we might well define heaven as the closure of all strife. But in this life, we will sometimes experience painful severance from those whom we love. We will not always value the same.
The world, which the Lord opened to his prophet, threatened the existence of the one where he had dwelt. So,
they took Jeremiah
and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah,
which was in the quarters of the guard,
letting him down with ropes.
There was no water in the cistern, only mud,
and Jeremiah sank into the mud (Jer 36:8).
Jesus said that he had come to create division among us. Is that not the role of the evil one rather than the Lord of life? But the ruptures of this world were already quite well-formed. We have always been a sea of closed, often conflicting clams.
The Lord asks us to make one more choice, to choose him. Like any other pick, it closes some of the world to us. We are still clams; we were not created to live without shells.
If we choose this love, if we choose Christ, we will grow.
But if we choose this love, if we choose Christ, we will grow. And when love is stymied, it must continue to love. We must strive to love the other, despite our conflicting values. We should not presume that all sin lies on only one side of our divide. And perhaps we can learn to accept the love of those who, for a time, take the place of a loved one.
“Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (12:6). The Letter to the Hebrews comes to a climax by considering Christ’s own experience of conflict and division.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
he endured the cross, despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God (12:2).
Divisions do end, even on earth. Do not lose hope. Our shells can grow larger as we age. Those of others can as well. In the meantime, we love as best we can. We hold the hurt inside our shell, and we do what we can to not cause pain in return. Life has its purpose. This is how God creates pearls.