Unity in a Divided Season
"I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." (I Corinthians 1:10)
I wrote to our congregation recently about how to foster unity in a divided season. I think this is an especially timely issue considering the divisive spirit that has raged throughout our current election season. I wanted to post some of the suggestions that I had sent to our congregation here, as well as adding in a few others. So here it is, our suggestions for how to foster Christian unity in a divided season.
1. Humility – "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (I Peter 5:5) John Stott once said, “Humility is essential to unity. Pride lurks behind all discord, while the greatest single secret of concord is humility.” The first way that we can combat disunity and division is with humility. Division thrives on the idea that only I have the answers, that my point of view is the only legitimate one and that anyone who disagrees is stupid or evil. This election season, choose to remember that you are imperfect. That your intellect is limited, your motivations not always pure, and your experience and vantage point narrow. Trust me, this isn’t easy for me either, but humility is where empathy and compassion grow. It can start healing the divides that ail us as Christians.
2. Credulousness – "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles," (Proverbs 24:17) This is the closest word I could find to the idea of, “choosing to believe the best about others.” George W. Bush said, “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.” This election season, choose to see the best even in people you disagree with. Phil Vischer recently said, “America is good and bad, virtuous and sinful, selfless and selfish, because America is us, and we are all of those things.” I think that's true for our political parties too, so seek to find good, even in those with whom you disagree.
3. Loyalty – "No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Luke 16:13) Seems a weird choice here, right? Wouldn’t being more loyal INCREASE our division? Well, only if that loyalty is going to a political party and not someone bigger. My suggestion here is to choose to identify your loyalty more and more with Christ. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or can’t be involved in politics, it means politics is subordinate to Christ. That political party is subordinate to your family in Christ. That Jesus’ commands always overrule the demands of a politician or party. As Bob Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody, do a gut check this election season and make sure that for you it’s God and not a political agenda, group, or individual. The gut check for this one is to think, do I feel more comfortable talking to people who follow Jesus and disagree with my politics, or people who like my politics and don't care about Jesus? When the two groups are different, our kinship should be stronger with fellow believers than with our political allies.
4. Perspective - "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12) The last one I'll mention here. A great creator of unity is empathy and listening. I can't tell you how many times I've gone into a discussion ready for an argument and through God's grace of granting me the power to listen I've instead walked out a little wiser. We all have one perspective on the world, try to connect with people who have different points of view. One way to promote this: find someone you like, that you connect with the way they write or talk, but who disagrees with you politically, and listen to them. I personally have a couple folks I follow on twitter who are diametrically opposed to my usual positions politically, but who I find to be kind, hilarious, and generous. It helps me remember, and I hope it will help you to remember that the "other side" is people too.
I hope that whatever the outcome of the elections this coming month, that we as a church can demonstrate a supernatural witness of humility, kindness, honor, and an all-consuming loyalty to the Lord our God.