If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

 

In any polarized situation, the overriding human tendency is to draw a line with oneself and one’s allies on the good side and the opposing party on the wicked side, with very little attempt made by either side to understand the other. As these positions harden it becomes almost impossible to achieve the insight necessary for a breakthrough.

For some years now I have kept a file that I call “The Line Runs Through.” This title is from Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic and one of the very few profound public thinkers of our time. You will remember that Havel was one of those who resisted the Communists and was put in prison for his activities.

When he came to power after the Velvet Revolution, Havel was conspicuously forgiving toward his former enemies and other collaborators. Some blamed him for this. But he maintained his position. In the Central European regimes of the seventies and eighties, Havel said, “The line {between good and evil] did not run clearly between ‘them’ and ‘us/ but through each person.

Fleming Rutledge, Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Sermons from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Eerdmans Publishing, 2007.

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