Yoda said “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Star Wars, thanks, George Lucas.) There is a crazed intensity in our political landscape that seems to only grow. 15 years ago, as President Bush was preparing to go to war in Iraq, there were differences of opinion, but at least we could talk about them. In 2018, Americans – families, friends, even churches – are split down the middle. So many of our conversations resemble those of boys on a school playground – boasts and threats, mostly irrational.
We are shouting at each other, taking increasingly radical positions diametrically opposed to the other side. Whatever the reason for the collapse of civility, I can say this with certainty – “For those who are in Christ this ought not to be the situation.” If you’re hating the ‘other side’ you are sinning; no question about it.
Paul takes on the challenge of unity. Read the inspired Word intently.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4, NIV)
Think about what you have received from Jesus, we are reminded. Does Jesus shout at us, condemn us, call us stupid, hold us at a distance? He loves us tenderly, even when we are difficult, sinful, or selfish. His grace extends to us at our worst, the bold love of God offered ‘while we were still sinners,’ resisting Him, rejecting Him. So, in the way He accepts us, we are to accept those with whom we live. Can that be hard? You’re nodding in the affirmative, aren’t you? Even the most mild-mannered among us has someone in family or at work, a person that is just plain hard to love. Even if we wish them no ill, we would be relieved if they would just disappear. You know it’s true, don’t you?
God asks us to choose humility.
Instead of being so certain, quick to say, “I’m right!”- we are told to consider that the other guy might have something to say to us. The Spirit says, “Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (Philippians 2:4, The Message) That directive is not just about ‘nice people,’ or those who reciprocate with reasonable words.
Love is our individual choice, as we are secure in the love of Jesus! He asks a simple question of us “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?” He reminds us that “Even sinners love those who love them! … Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:32-36, NLT)
This Monday morning, before you rush off to your day, bring to mind that person that really rubs you the wrong way. Think that person who makes your life hard. Now … pray for them, honestly! Pray until you can get past the “Well, Lord, I guess You love them so I’ll try to be nice” to a place where you can care about their interests, seek the best for them. By the way, if you do not know what that it, God does, so agree with Him.
Unity needs to be more than a slogan. The word from the Word says “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) Let’s stop throwing grenades and start building some bridges.