We are great at separating people. At a glance we can discern if someone is on our team or should be shunned and ridiculed. Humans are particularly good at drawing lines in the sand and then determining who belongs on which side.
We are really talented at breaking down community. We eagerly identify our foes so we can sling invectives and any verbal dirt we can scrounge up.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some very bad people in the world but those are the exception and not the rule. Yet, we want to ostracize a good portion of the population for any number of reasons. Our default is to surround ourselves with people who agree with us 95% of the time.
Those 95% are called friends. Often friendships are build upon our mutual affinities and those commonalities forge deep and lasting relationships. However, if you write off the rest of the world, you are missing an opportunity to serve, grow and love. (Yes, I know it is hard to love those you disagree with. Remember, I am a pastor.)
I believe it is time to resist our nature proclivity to only spend time with those who agree with us. Ministry happens when you build bridges and not throw bombs. The Kingdom of God grows when we are reconciled to each other and not estranged.
We are reminded of the importance of unity within the Bible. Let me give you a few examples.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity! Psalm 133:1
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12&14
God is all about unity. Clearly Jesus wants us to be one! Saint Paul reminds us that all believers form one body… the body of Christ.
Jesus once corrected the disciples about drawing lines in the sand…
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Mark 9:38-40
Wow. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” That is generous of Jesus to make that statement. He is willing to let a lot of things go to get to that position. I hope you see that too. Jesus could have said, “Unless thouest agree with me in the ninety-fifth percentile, thouest is against me.” Or he could have just as easily agreed with the disciples. “You are right, they aren’t with us, let’s be against them.” Jesus is looking to build unity and so should we.
Erase that line in the sand, walk across the aisle and build a relationship first. Not everything has to be a litmus test of acceptability. We worship an inclusive God who offers radical grace.
God bless you,