May 14, 2016

Be the Unifier in the Midst of Divisiveness

There are many times in the day-to-day we hear talk that divides.

It may be a leader, for example, who states something that he or she knows others disagree with. Perhaps the person feels genuinely strong in favor of a particular cause, and are hoping that by their statement, they and others who agree with them will convince others of the rightness of their belief.  But their approach breeds discord, even hate, among those who choose to be caught in the passion of the debate.

Whatever the person's motive for making that divisive statement, the rest of social media and the news reporters and those they interview erupt passionately with either criticism or support.  And in so doing, the division has been made.

But what really divides us?  A disagreement over something we each only know partially about?  Often most who join the raucous clamor on either side haven't even taken the time to understand the situation fully.

I propose that division is unnecessary.

There ARE issues that are important, and deserve passionate debate.  But there is a beauty in being able to have that debate with respect for the other person, learn the perspective of the other side, learn about each other in the process, and remain part of a mutually respectful community.  How I long to see this skill appreciated and practiced among my fellow citizens, and especially among more of my fellow Christians.

God made us to live in community - with Him, and with others.  But what is our community?  A select group of people we have found who agree with us on most everything?  People with whom we have much in common?  Being drawn to those who have things in common is normal.  But I don't think ignoring or avoiding those with more differences of opinion or different life experiences is healthy.

We can learn so much from each other.  We need each other.  As an example, I have dozens of friends from all over the country who have a commitment to Jesus Christ in common with me.  They are my spiritual brothers and sisters.  However, they are from different denominations of all kinds.  Some even hold different political views than I do!  (Gasp!)  However, because we agree that Jesus Christ is Lord, and He is worthy of our praise and our devotion, I find that it's very easy to worship with them, study God's Word with them, and pray with them.  I'm grateful for some of them who have prayed for me at the times I have needed it.

But what if there is a divisive issue on which we disagree?  Together, unified, we can work toward mutually beneficial solutions.  First, by praying together, asking God for direction, wisdom, understanding, and peace.  Second, by listening to each other, understanding all the hard parts of both sides of an issue.  Third, by reminding each other that this world is not our home, but that we are placed here to be a light in the darkness.  So whatever issues we may disagree on, we can agree that there are people who need God's love and salvation, and it is our job to tell them about it.

There are things that shouldn't be discussed on social media.

There are days turning off the news and choosing to pray about it is better than listening to everyone's opinions and stewing over it.

Jesus prayed for unity among believers.  This is the greatest witness we can have.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." - John 17:20-23 (NIV)

Don't let divisive leaders sway you.  Know what is most important.  Be a community of people who share life in love, grace and a desire to understand one another better.  And above all, keep your light shining bright into the dark places, so those without hope will find Jesus, the real Hope.

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