Wineskins Archive

December 5, 2013

Reconciling Roses (Sept 2012)

Filed under: — @ 8:51 pm and

By Al Maxey

The great English poet and playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616), sometimes called “the Bard of Avon,” penned some of the most moving and passionate lines in English literature. Without doubt, my favorite play from this literary genius is Romeo and Juliet. It is the story of a young boy and girl who have the misfortune of being born into feuding families (the Montagues and Capulets), and yet who, by a series of fateful circumstances, fall deeply in love with one another. The families are beside themselves that “one of their own” would have any love for “one of them.” Unthinkable! Utterly outrageous! “He/she is not one of us, you know.”

In Act 2, Scene 2, Juliet, pondering her pitiful plight upon her balcony one dark night, utters one of the most memorable lines in all of human literature: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? … What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; so Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.” Juliet fervently desires, with every fiber of her being, that she and Romeo could forever cast off their names, which have tragically come to define (and thus divide) them, and simply embrace each other for who and what they truly are: soul-mates bound together as one by love.

Some Shakespearean scholars, in commenting upon this section of the play, observe that Juliet is here “informing Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person who is called ‘Montague,’ not the Montague name.” In other words, what really matters in any meaningful relationship is who someone truly is, not what someone may be called. Exactly why the Montague and Capulet families were feuding, and unwilling to reconcile, is never clearly specified in the play, which is very much reflective of real life, for too often those engaged in long-standing contentions have long forgotten that which prompted the original falling out with one another, which makes the squabbling all the more tragic, not to mention foolish.

Love, however, has torn down the barrier between Romeo and Juliet. Their love for each other refuses to be bound by the hatred of their kin. In a moment of clarity, Juliet realizes that no matter what names one may call another in an effort to defame or define them, such caustic characterizations have no actual bearing on who the person truly is. If they are genuinely a “rose,” then they will smell just as sweet even though one may call them a “skunk lily.” Montague and Capulet are, after all, simply names, and in the eternal scheme of things, “what’s in a name?” Of greater consequence was the content of their hearts, which were filled only with love for one another, a love that pushed back generations of conflict and merged two souls as one.

Figuratively, we might speak of the people of God as being roses planted in a great global garden, well cared for and guarded by His Spirit. These are all beautiful blooms, each giving off a sweet smelling scent as the Owner walks appreciatively among them. But imagine if the rose bushes began attacking one another.

“You’re not really a rose; you’re a stink weed.”

“Okay, you may be a rose, but you’re a yellow one, and we all know that the Gardener only loves red roses.”

Before long the garden is in disarray. The bushes are becoming diseased; some are withering and dying, and the Gardener is saddened, because in His sight, each one smelled just as sweet as the others, even though no single rose was identical to any other. Color and classification did not matter to Him, for the scent of each was equally pleasant and precious. If only we could learn to “stop and smell the roses” like He does, instead of seeking to define and divide them by denominating them, His vast global garden would be a much more lovely place to be, for there would be a refreshing reconciling of roses, giving off a sweet smelling aroma.

Now, please don’t misunderstand: I’m in no way suggesting that naming something or someone is necessarily a negative thing. Indeed, there is much that can be positive about this practice. Look at roses, for example. According to some rose societies there are over a thousand different varieties. There are big ones, small ones, the climbing variety, the bush variety, yellow, red, pink, etc. Virtually all rose lovers will tell you the same thing, however: they all smell equally sweet. The Body of Jesus Christ is like that.

There is great variety and diversity within this universal body of believers. Some of us are feet, some are hands; some are eyes, noses and ears. Some are Jewish, others are Gentile; some are rich, some are poor. Some were raised in families that go back generations in a particular faith-heritage, as mine does in the Stone-Campbell Movement. There are others who have roots just as deep in a different heritage. Worship styles and preferences will differ among believers; understandings of the end times will differ; we might even differ on the precise point in time when God perceives a person to be saved.

So, who among us smells the best to our Great Gardener? Which of us is the “favored bloom”? Each tend to believe that they, and they alone, are the “chosen” one: the blue ribbon rose. As the circle of acceptance is drawn ever smaller by these various roses, the global garden of our God is reduced, at least in the minds of such “roses,” to a single bush.

Is it just possible, however, that the Great Gardener has designed His global garden in such a way as to display the beauty that abounds within this diversity? Are we different by divine design? Should we not, therefore, bloom in that part of the garden in which we have been planted, instead of spending our time plotting how to uproot a neighboring rose? The apostle John was ready to uproot a fellow “rose” simply because this other bush was planted in a different part of the garden [Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49]. Could he not see that this other growing plant had value to the Lord in its own right: a worth not measured by its proximity to another bush?

My fellow red roses (if that is your color), why is it we can’t bring ourselves to accept those pink roses or yellow roses that are growing nearby in God’s garden? Why must we denounce them for being of a different color? Why must we form plots against fellow plants?

“But, they are pink.” Yes, but there is one soil.

“But, they are climbing roses.” True, but there is one fertilizer.

“But, they are miniatures.” Agreed, but there is one Gardener, and He only has one garden – and we are both in it.

Brethren, the reality of the “Great Rose Reconciliation” in our Great Redeemer is that we are each in sweet fellowship with all other roses in the garden, even those that do not grow on our bush. There are other bushes in this garden besides our own. My fellow roses, I have grown beyond “bush-ism.” After studying my Handbook more closely, and learning from the Gardener Himself, I have forever given up “bushing” in favor of gardening.

In other words, I shall fellowship all my fellow roses, no matter their color or size, and I shall continue proclaiming to the world around me the reality of One Garden consisting of countless precious roses on a number of different bushes, each of which smell just as sweet to the One who planted them. I have embraced a ministry of reconciliation to my fellow roses, and thus will never again preach or teach that only red roses from my bush will appear as the centerpiece on the banquet table at the wedding feast of the Great Gardener’s Son.

On His table, gathered from His garden, there will be a colorful assortment, arranged and reconciled in one eternal display for all to enjoy.

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