There is no organization better suited to respond to the current societal divisiveness than the church. Let’s not blow it.
The bitter “us” versus “them” mentality of so many people these days is directly confronted by the radical unity that Christianity teaches. The modern day equivalent of the “Jew” and “Greek” of Bible times (Galatians 3:28) find themselves inextricably, if a bit uncomfortably, drawn together in Christ. If it is indeed true that God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11), then who are we to do so?
It should break our hearts when we hear what passes for public discourse in our nation today. One of my wife's preshcool kids said to her yesterday, "Obama is a liar." Hmm...wonder where she heard that? And I'm much more upset by a preschool kid saying it than hearing it shouted from the floor of congress, to tell you the truth.
I just learned from my cousin Bryan that, in Germany, there are signs at the crosswalks that encourage grown-ups to cross with the light because it will set a good example for the children watching. Setting aside for a second the glennbeckian propensity to see an evil governmental plot to control our lives, isn't that a pretty good idea? Shouldn't we be behaving so that the example we set is a good one?
As adults should set examples for children, so should the church set the example for society. (It's a metaphor, not an analogy, so don't jump on that.) Simply put, there is no better time than now for the church to model for the rest of the world how people are supposed to get along. If you've read H. Richard Niebuhr, this is the time to bring a little "Christ Transforming Culture" into the mix.
You want to hear something radical? I believe in the devil, and I believe that the devil doesn't really care what we believe, as long as it separates us from one another, and from God. Evil does not manifest in individual person's beliefs; evil manifests in the way that people's beliefs, whatever they are, cause us to distance, then divide, then isolate, and ultimately hate the other.
If ever there was a moment for the church to counteract our societal craziness, it is now. But here is the tricky part - we cannot repay evil with evil, but must counter evil with goodness (Romans 12:17). In other words, the church cannot "go to battle" with divisiveness, for doing so would just add more divisiveness (and the devil would love it). Rather, we must counter cultural divisiveness with Christian unity, a unity that claims and celebrates a rich and vibrant diversity within it.
Christian unity does not ignore difference. It is not "colorblind," a term that I try to avoid using. Rather, Christian unity sees the differences and transcends them. That which unites is God's love shown through Jesus Christ and present in the Holy Spirit, and no earthly force can overcome that. That means that I'm different from you - in a lot of ways - and that's okay.
That's what the church is supposed to be - left/right, women/men, old/young, gay/straight, rich/poor, Royals/Cardinals, short/tall, UMC/AG, this race/that race, this nation/that nation, citizen/immigrant, this/that, blah blah/yadda yadda - and on and on and on. God loves us all; God wants us all to be better people; God offers us all the gift of salvation. To announce and embody this good news in all of its myriad possibilities is why the church exists.
How we treat each other matters. We should neither weaponize our differences nor ignore them. For the church, there is no "us" and "them" - it's all "us!" It's all us in all of our vibrant, complicated, mystifying, frustrating diversity. And it can be such a beautiful thing to behold.
This is our moment, church. Please let's not blow it.
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