Reflection by Rev. James Patten (retired Presbyterian pastor and member of the Board and Executive Committee of the Church Council of Greater Seattle)

A year or so ago, representatives from the Latter Day Saints, Christian, Unitarian, Muslim, and Jewish religions visited Rep. Dave Reichert. A few weeks later a similar group visited Rep. Susan DelBene. We urged them to promote a different U.S. strategy in the Middle East. We talked about how we, from very diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, had learned to cross those boundaries and become friends. We wanted to urge the U.S. to allocate at least part of their aid to Israel to foster conversations between Palestinian and Israeli youth. We offered to help by organizing an experience for those youth here in the Puget Sound area. We need to change the attitudes of the next generation to end the hatred and violence killing so many innocent lives.

We could advocate for this policy, with integrity, because we had modeled how crossing boundaries, hearing each other in respectful ways, and working together in Habitat for Humanity projects like Together We Build can make a huge difference in creating understanding and respect.

Our world is in desperate need of people of good faith to cross boundaries in order to promote the common good. This is true in the Middle East, but also true in this country when it comes to the racial divide we are painfully experiencing. It is tearing communities apart and creating fear and distrust. Those of us living the advantages of white privilege, especially, need to step across boundaries to see the world through the eyes of those who feel disenfranchised.

As Christians, we have Jesus as our model. It was not safe for him in Judea so he headed to Galilee. The Gospel of John said when he left he “had to go through Samaria.” (John 4:4) He did not literally have to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. He chose to go through Samaria. He crossed a big boundary separating Jews and Samaritans in doing so. He also crossed a sexual boundary by speaking to a woman in public. That action could have been misinterpreted. It initially was by his disciples who were incredulous that he was speaking to this woman in public. In taking that risk Jesus was able to offer “living water” to this Samaritan woman. He saw her as a child of God in need of respect.

When we pray for unity we acknowledge we have our work cut out for us in bridging boundaries between denominations in the Christian tradition. That, alone, is hard enough. The next step of working across racial boundaries to bring about a more just society is absolutely crucial. The next step of crossing boundaries between Christianity and other enduring religious traditions is just as crucial. I pray we may see Jesus as our role model in this critical work for our day.

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