I have been thinking and praying a lot about unity* during the past several months as I have witnessed, along with everyone else the fractures and schisms that have become very apparent as we have all gone through a much more stressful year than anyone had anticipated.
I have seen families, including my own at the dinner table, with our two emerging young adults holding two very different political viewpoints. Divided in their views. This at times can make for tense encounters (over some of the best grilled chicken you have ever had), yet we allow for disagreement and debate as long as there is no hateful, “cancel” or terminating words (like everyone, all, never, always, etc.). They are also, in most cases, encouraged to bring evidence that is not propagated by social media to the conversation if they want to be taken seriously. Primary and secondary sources are allowed, but soundbites and memes are not.
The desire and hope I have for unity in the Church, our country, as well as our families is something that has weighed heavily on me and I would assume on many of you. It is very difficult to watch both the Church, nation and families fracture, but it is especially difficult to watch the Church. We all know it is not new for the Church and churches within the Church to break up and go separate ways based on music, preaching and the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. Of course there are many other reasons and times the Church has split, the Reformation comes to mind, but at this current moment it seems this lack of unity is different and could even be darker and more sinister than the past.
I am not naive enough to think that this current moment is the first time that politics, government and church have mixed and developed a toxic concoction. We can thumb through our religious and world history books and see many other occasions where the three have danced, eventually collapsing into a pile of putrid toxicity. Mainly because, much like oil and water, politics, government and the church are not made to mix. This is not to say, we should not pray for those who are in positions of government leadership. We certainly should, no matter whose party is in power. Pray for wisdom and guidance and for them to be people of unity and peace.
Before you begin to “at me” with words of hate and despair, let’s think this through. At what point in history have the three mixed well? This world has had its share of theocracies which many seem to be advocating for now, but how does that work when your religion is not the one in power? Not well. Was it not one of the reasons that our country was established to get away from theocratic oppression? It was. Have we not been fighting a war for the last 20 years against groups we believe to be trying to do the very thing that many now want here in our country? To use religion as a tool of power and oppression.
At what point do we realize that our religion and beliefs are not tools to be used to oppress and hold power over others?
At what point do we realize that there are people who do not have the same political beliefs, yet believe in the same God? Many of which you stand next to every week.
At what point do we realize that the Republican party does not have the corner on Christianity? Or that Democrats and Republicans can and do go to the same churches throughout our country? They may even serve in the same committee or sing on stage together.
As believers in the one and only God, we are called to be people of love and unity. People who love the people we agree with and have the same political views as well as those who do not. We are to love and care for those who are not like us or have the same worldview. Please keep in mind that to love is not the same as to agree with. We don’t have to agree, but we are called to love. If you were to study, really study and not just grab a couple of the latest trending verses, from the book of Acts as well as from Paul’s Epistles you would witness what loving looks like for those who come from different worldviews and backgrounds. There is a vast amount of scripture in the New Testament that shows what it looks like to love, to unite and live in unity with people who they were told to hate. Jews and Gentiles were never meant to mix, but Paul and many others reached across party lines to tell the Good News of a resurrected Messiah who is and always has been and will be for all people. That same motivation should inspire us to see unity and love all people today.
I implore you to search your soul, pray, and to deeply study scripture, so that you can see and then believe that unity is possible no matter the political party, religious affiliation or world view. Unity is possible through loving all people. Paul continues to be an excellent example of this when he writes to the early churches and travels through Asia Minor and Europe in the book of Acts. It is all about the love of God and sharing that love with all the people he encounters. We are called to do the same.