Divided We Fall1
In my 48 years, I cannot remember a time when we as a nation were more divided. We have always disagreed, but today the disagreements seem more emotionally and morally charged than I ever remember. Today, people seem far too willing to declare you a “bad” person for disagreeing with them. Just in the past two weeks I have heard that no one can possibly be a Christian and be a Democrat, and I heard very similar comments made about those who support President Trump.
So how are we going to live in this divided country of ours? The easy option is to isolate ourselves away from all those who disagree with us. We can make ourselves feel good by agreeing with each other about how right we are and how dumb “they” are. We all agree, feel good, and get along – what could be better?
Well, gospel Christianity is better. The New Testament makes it extraordinarily clear that a true Church where the Holy Spirit dwells will be filled with different people. We will have different ideas, parties, economic status, and race. Colossians 3:11 says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (ESV) The apostle Paul’s point is that all of these kinds of people were a part of the church, but, in Christ, they became more than their worldly labels. They became brothers and sisters. We go beyond tolerance. We are commanded to love one another as Christ loved us.
How can God expect us all to get along? Colossians 3:12-14 tells us very clearly: “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (ESV)
I encourage you to read that text carefully. Every word in it assumes we will disagree, and we will bear with each other with humility, kindness, and forgiveness.
Practically what does that mean?
First, it means if we are to live together graciously we must make an effort to be kind. Yes, kindness requires effort. Yes, Christians are commanded to be kind. What does kindness mean? It means assuming the best about your friends and communicating with grace. It means you do not assume every Democrat is a Marxist, or every Republican is a Racist. It means giving people a fair hearing, and treating others they way you would want them to treat you.
So, before you open your mouth or type that Facebook comment, ask yourself, “Would my opponent think this is kind?” Or “If someone said this about me, would I think it was kind?” Even if they would not agree with what you are saying, could they say you were being kind? If not, hit delete. I promise the world will not come to an end for lack of your opinion.
Second, it means we will bear with one another and forgive one another. You will definitely get offended in the coming months. That comes from living in the church. What will you do when you are offended? Will you go on the attack? Will you remember the offense and store up bitterness? Will you go find another church where everyone agrees with you? Or will you absorb the pain and forgive as God has forgiven you? If we are to flourish together as a church, we must take the harder path. We must learn to bear the offense and forgive. Hard? Yes. Impossible without the Holy Spirit. But forgiveness is now, and always will be, the centerpiece of Christianity.
To be clear, I actually do think you should be on Facebook and Twitter. In our fractured world, it is the only way to be connected. But, you need to use it wisely. Act like you would if you were speaking to the commenters face to face. Would you let a friend blow off steam without taking every word he says personally? I know you would. Would you listen to a friend graciously, and place her words in the context of your relationship? Yes, of course you would. Do the same online as you would do in person.
Let us all ask Jesus to enable us to do what no one could naturally do on his own: enable us to love each other and live in harmony.