Disagreeing Like Jesus

November 05, 2023; Matthew 23:1-12; 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

I think we are all aware that Jesus at times disagreed with the Pharisees. Today’s gospel is an example of this. He criticizes the Pharisees for seeking the place of honor at banquets and by not practicing what they preach. These are valid objections and ones which, by the way, can also apply to us. But in the gospel, Jesus does more than criticize the Pharisees, he also supports them. He tells his disciples that the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses and that their teaching must be followed. So even as Jesus disagrees with the Pharisees, he supports them. Even as he points out the Pharisees’ flaws, he treats them with respect. This attitude of Jesus is obviously meant to be a model for us, because in our lives and in our world there are many people with whom we disagree. And Jesus asks us to treat them with respect.

Negotiations are a part of marriage. Over the years, two people can grow in divergent ways. Therefore, if a marriage is to continue, partners must find a way in which differing desires and expectations can be discussed and resolved. This is not always an easy process. It can involve loud words and deep emotions. There can be an overwhelming sense of disappointment. One partner or the other might at a given time say, “No, I can’t do that. I won’t do that.” Marriage involves negotiations. But Jesus reminds us that, even if we disagree with another’s position, we cannot attack or vilify the person.

Our country is divided in many ways. We have radically different opinions on politicians, on government policies, on moral issues. Part of being a human and certainly part of being a Christian is to develop a set of beliefs that are responsible. Once we reach a reasoned position, we have the right to express it and act upon it. But the strength of our belief does not justify demeaning the one with whom we disagree. The depth of what we believe should never lead to violence towards another.

The example that Jesus sets before us today is not an easy one, but it is founded upon a profound spiritual truth. Jesus believes that every person is a daughter or son of God, and therefore everyone possesses an inherent dignity that cannot be set aside. So Jesus challenges us today to look at the person who disagrees with us as a person of value, indeed, as a brother or sister.

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