The Pastor and the Sheriff Have Lunch

The Pastor and the Sheriff Have Lunch

By Sarah Whitman, Tampa Bay Faith

They met to talk over lunch.

They smiled for photographs. 

Whether or not the cordial meeting between The River atTampa Bay Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne and Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister was necessary or even a good idea, it has people talking. 

In March, Chronister had controversial Howard-Browne arrested for holding in-person church services despite stay-at-home orders limiting gatherings – those charges were recently dropped.

In late April, Chronister visited the pastor’s Tampa home to discuss reopening Hillsborough and moving forward. 

Howard-Browne even announced Chronister will attend the next live service held at The River, though a date on that has yet to be announced. 

Of course, there’s a lot of social media discussion about the reconciliation being politically motivated and Chronister showing special treatment. 

That’s not what interests me about this story or the public reaction to it.

What interests me is how little I see this kind of meeting happening.

These are two Christian men. They are both public figures. They had a big difference in opinion. They still sat down to talk – without anger.

Why can’t the rest of us do the same?

My 3-year-old daughter watches Daniel Tiger. In her favorite episode, Daniel is taught to repeat the song ‘It’s okay to feel angry but it’s not okay to hurt someone.’ The cartoon makes a good point. 

A County Sherrif should be able to sit across from a man he disagreed with and make amends.

As Christians, we are called to follow Jesus. We are called to show love – even when angered. We are called to show grace.

Jesus sat down to talk with EVERYONE.

He didn’t say ‘Lash out and hold grudges.’

He didn’t say ‘Call people you disagree with mean names and wish them to fall ill.’

He said: 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’Matthew 5:43‭-‬46 

Jesus knew we would disagree. He knew we would be tempted to loose ourselves in pride and opinion. He warned us about being quick to judge. 

There’s this flawed phrase out there ‘We’re all in this together.’ It’s being used to further agendas. It’s being used to make us feel ‘safe.’ 

But being together means tolerating different ideas. It means welcoming people into your home and sitting down for coffee. It means taking Jesus’s advice, not just the media’s or a politician’s. 

I do not have to agree with Howard-Browne or Sheriff Chronister. 

I only need to remember we are children of the same forgiving Father. 

And, I’d like to think, that’s the reason these two men sat down to talk.