So, I watched the presidential debate. Afterward, I wished I hadn’t.
It was painfully disappointing. The disappointment I felt had nothing to do with politics.
It had everything to do with how we treat each other when we disagree.
The debate was a prime example of a typical conversation between differing viewpoints in our culture right now.
It usually sounds something like this:
“I’m right. You’re an idiot.”
“No. I’m right. You’re an idiot.”
End of the conversation. Or, if you prefer, repeat the same exchange for three hours.
Our culture is not behaving well.
The people engaged with your church are part of this culture.
Polarizing viewpoints are present in your church, and I believe the fellowship that is supposed to define the body of Christ is at risk, especially as we move toward a contentious election.
As our culture continues to fight about masks or no masks, peaceful protests or riots, republicans or democrats, I believe there is a sermon we all need to preach this fall.
Why? Because Jesus calls us to a much different way of interacting and speaking when we disagree.
Here’s a basic outline of the sermon:
Think for a second about the young men Jesus called to follow Him.
Peter is called a Zealot. My belief is that he had been aligned with a political group wanting to remove Rome by force.
Matthew was a tax-collector and Roman collaborator who was likely getting rich by keeping the Jewish peasantry poor.
I wonder how those campfire conversations went. Yikes!
Before Jesus, I have to believe that Peter HATED people like Matthew. He would have never shared a meal with him.
And yet, the differences that separated them were bound together by something—or more accurately, SOMEONE who brought a unity that overpowered the differences.
I think this is important. The very first group of people that Jesus called to himself was dangerously diverse.
It shouldn’t have worked.
Here’s my point: We have more in common at the cross than what separates us everywhere else.
- Republicans and Democrats have more in common at the cross than what divides at the polls.
- Black and white have more in common at the cross than what separates in the streets.
- Pro-mask and anti-mask have more in common at the cross than what divides us in practice.
It seems to me that Jesus is particularly interested in bringing unity to dangerous diversity.
The way of Jesus should bring us together with those who differ significantly.
The first-century church was shocking.
If you walked past a courtyard where a group of Jesus followers gathered in Ephesus or Colossae, I think you would have said,
“What in the world is going on here?”
Think about the words in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11
The first-century church was like nothing else in Roman culture. It was shocking. All were welcome. All were valued.
Two thoughts on this: First, it was beautiful—a picture of heaven on earth. Second, it was hard.
Don’t miss this. At church, the slave and master shared a meal. During the week, the slave obeys the master.
It was messy. It was confusing. Some appreciated Rome. Some hated Rome. There were massive cultural differences.
It shouldn’t have worked. It didn’t work anywhere else. And yet it did.
Why? Because we have more in common at the cross than what separates us everywhere else.
And, I believe that the shocking diversity present in the first-century church was incredibly magnetic.
It was one of the factors that contributed to the explosive growth the church experienced.
Here’s why I bring all this up. Our culture is divided. We have lost civil disagreement.
There is hate, division, and fear.
The church stands in a position to be something very different.
Our culture doesn’t know how to patch up the tears in the fabric of our society. Jesus is the answer.
We have an opportunity to demonstrate and model a beautiful unity amid dangerous diversity and division.
How? How can we live out unity during dangerous division?
Back to Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
If we choose to build relationships with people who respond to COVID differently, vote differently, and live differently—and I believe we must if we take the person and teaching of Jesus seriously—we will have conflict.
Feelings will get hurt. Arguments will erupt. When these things happen, bear with each other.
Put up with each other and forgive each other.
Unity in diversity is not easy, simple, clean, or fast. It will be hard, complicated, messy, and slow.
Tolerate one another’s differences. Forgive.
Why? Because Jesus forgave you.
Remember, we have more in common at the cross than what separates us.
I pray that we embrace this opportunity to pursue unity, that once again, the Church of Jesus Christ might shock society.
“That shouldn’t work. They shouldn’t be together. What’s going on over there?”
I believe our relationships could be incredibly magnetic.
The way of Jesus is what our divided and angry world needs.