Discovered this at the Met today, a painting by Jusepe de Ribera. There’s Peter, holding the keys to the Kingdom, and there’s Paul, with the hilt of a sword (alluding to this martyr’s death) leaned against the wall behind him.
You can see the conviction, passion, and respect each one has for the other. Their faces are only inches from one another, but you can tell, “>especially from Paul’s eyes, that they’re not about to spit in each other’s faces–there is deep, abiding trust and respect and zeal between them. They are brothers through Jesus Christ.
Here, they’re passionately debating the Matter at Antioch, according to de Ribera; which at least in part concerned the place of the Hebrews–Jews–and the Old Covenant since the chronological arrival of Jesus Christ.
I was struck at how this depicts in practically iconic form the strife of our own day and Church (Anglicanism). Because we are a body that stakes its claim on community and incarnation, we’re meant to fight it out and to disagree with vigor (but with compassion and patience!) rather than looking to one supreme ruler to hand down decisions, or breaking up into camps the moment we can’t see eye-to-eye. We in the Episcopal Church haven’t done a very good job of living into the example our brethren present to us above (or in Acts, or Galatians).
The thing I observe to be missing most is respect. More than “tolerance,” respect demands a patient and humble compassion. It is not that we are to cover up or ignore or avoid disagreements at all costs, but that when tension results amidst our convictions, we pursue them patiently, humbly, compassionately together.
May de Ribera’s piece serve as an icon for us, as we seek to be patient, humble, and compassionate with each other and with ourselves.