Across the Pastor’s Desk: Disagreements can teach much

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, July 5, 2018

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Mark Boorsma

Mark Boorsma


“You’re not the boss of me!”  Have you ever heard — or said — those words of defiance? Although it can make us seem an especially quarrelsome species, independence of thought and action is actually a highly desirable human trait.  Such a trait emboldens people to stand up for themselves and advocate for the oppressed and voiceless.

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Walk with me back in history to the years between 1378 and 1417, when the western church had two (then three) rival popes, each claiming to be the true vicar of Christ on earth and denying any valid authority for their counterparts. You can almost imagine a boisterous forty-year chorus of “you’re not the boss of me!”

The kind of respect for individual conscience we now hold dear was still thought to be a very dangerous proposition back then.  So dangerous, in fact, that drastic measures were taken against nonconformists. Which brings me to Father Jan Hus, the Czech priest, theologian and educator whose Bible-based independent thinking cost him his life.

Hus lived fully a century before Martin Luther, who is often credited with what came to be called the Protestant Reformation. But Luther himself noticed that he had much in common with the earlier church-reform-minded ideas of Jan Hus.

On this date in 1415 Hus was declared a heretic and was burned at the stake in Konstanz, Germany. His ashes were tossed in the Rhine. Thank God we no longer burn those with whom we disagree (although you can still get “flamed” online). In fact, our disagreements can be a source of great mutual learning and progress, if only we engage them rather than deny or minimize them.

Truth is, you aren’t the boss of me, and I’m not the boss of you. And the only one who ultimately has the qualifications to be the boss of us instead chooses to serve all people with infinite compassion and mercy.  Thanks be to God for such an indescribable gift.

Mark Boorsma is pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.