Throwing bombs, building bridges?

peacemakeOne of God’s gifts to me is my administrative assistant. Yes, she does her work well and for that I am thankful, but the greater gift is bringing a different perspective on life. Melina, 30 years younger than I, challenges my opinions on food, the environment, politics, art, women’s issues, etc.  She is courageous enough from time to time, to point out that that others may see it differently!

Over the decade that we have worked in adjoining offices, we have caused each other to be more thoughtful and to better understand the world around us.

The tragedy of this moment in America is the way we are divided – rich and poor, black and white, Republican and Democrat, Christian and Muslim, male and female … it is a long, long list. And this ought to be a concern for those of us who follow Christ, not something we endorse or accept! Jesus taught that the primary marker of His disciples would be love; not the sappy, romantic stuff of the movies, but a radical concern for the well-being of other people. Furthermore, He reminds us that the path to the greatest joy is not in protecting our turf, but in building bridges. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, KJV) The Message amplifies the verse – “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” (Matthew 5:9, The Message)

Why are we so divided? Mostly it is fear that drives us apart. We have a sense that we are threatened economically, socially, spiritually, even physically and the worst traits rise to the fore, angry accusations, bitter feelings of resentment, and finger pointing blame.  Rather than working for solutions to the very real challenges of our time, so often we tend to resort to making ‘those people’ the scapegoat. If we did not have to deal with ‘them’ we would be better off. Depending on our own place, ‘those people’ become those of different economic status, political persuasion, religion, or color! But, truthfully the problem belongs to all of us and each of us has a piece of the puzzle in our hands that will contribute to the whole.

How can we make it better? It must start with the Church, with people whose fear has been replaced with security in the Love of the Father. “Perfect love casts out fear,” the Bible says. Yes, in context, John is speaking of fear of God’s judgment, the principle is applicable in other places. When I love someone, I do not fear their difference.  I may continue to disagree with them, but I learn to accept them, accommodate them, and yes, to be influenced to change by rubbing shoulders with them.  The first generation of Christians was remarkable for their lack of social division. In a society where boundaries between slave and free, Roman citizen and non-citizen, Greek and Jew, were fixed and seldom crossed, Christians met together, loved each other, and became a real community.  It was evidence of the supernatural power of the Spirit. Paul told those early Christians that their old divisions had disappeared because “you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT)

My heart’s desire for our local congregation is to reflect that kind of loving acceptance in our community. No, I do not want the veneer of ‘nice’ to merely hide thoughts of discrimination! My prayer is that our love for Christ will unite us, the many different threads of the tapestry of life, into something beautiful in the service of the Lord. How about you? Would you work to share that vision?

Would you pray that God would secure you in His gracious love, driving out your fears and replacing it with the knowledge that “He’s got the whole world in His hands?”  Would you learn to listen to ‘those people’ and discover who they are, even as you invite them to join you at the table of God’s grace given us through Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord?  And, in making peace we will allow glimpses of the Kingdom to come to shine through us. Could it be any better than that?

Here is a word from the Word. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.  –  “I… beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” (Ephesians 2;14-22, 4:1-3, NLT)

________________

 We Will Stand

 Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand
Why we pull away from each other so easily
Even though we’re all walking the same road
Yet we build dividing walls
Between our brothers and ourselves

 But I don’t care what label you may wear
If you believe in Jesus you belong with me
The bond we share is all I care to see
And we’ll change the world forever
If you will join with me
Join and sing sing 

You’re my brother you’re my sister
So take me by the hand
Together we will work until He comes
There’s no foe that can defeat us
When we’re walking side by side
As long as there is love
We will stand

 The day will come when we will be as one
And with a mighty voice
Together we will proclaim that Jesus
Jesus is King
It will echo through the earth
It will shake the nations
And the world will see that

 You’re my brother you’re my sister
So take me by the hand
Together we will work until He comes
There’s no foe that can defeat us
When we’re walking side by side
As long as there is love
We will stand

James Hollihan | Russ Taff | Tori Taff© 1983 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.) CCLI License # 810055

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