I know it is a cliché question that really seems laughable, but I really don’t understand the level of divisiveness that seems to have permeated our society, our politics, and our churches. I understand that people feel strongly about what they believe and they don’t want to compromise their beliefs. The problem I see is that people think that if they try to understand another’s ideas or beliefs that they will somehow lose something of themselves. The reality that I have experienced is that when I more fully understand another’s beliefs or ideas I gain something for myself. I either come away with a better understanding of why I believe what I do or I come away with something that alters or enhances my beliefs. I do not come away feeling like I have lost anything. I have also found that when I enter into conversations with others with whom I differ, but who are willing to be open, I gain relationship. When we close ourselves off to interactions with others, we only gain loneliness. When we insist that others must be like us or be against us, we walk a path to division and shallow connection.
I am so weary of people who interrogate others and question their integrity simply because they hold different ideas. If a person is so sure of what they believe, why should they fear what others have to say? I am also saddened by those that when they encounter another’s idea, their first response is to look for how the other is wrong or different rather than looking for places of commonality. Jesus gave his followers the COMMANDMENT to Love one another just as he has loved us (John 15:12). He also instructed us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). If we are looking for ways to ostracize others and if we are referring to the world in terms of “Us” and “Them”, then we are not seeking to build community and love. If we remove the “Us” and “Them” thinking, then we are only left with “Us”. If I approach another with the attitude of, “I am not sure what to do with my thoughts and feelings, but I am committed to figure out how to live well with you and love you” that seems very different than, “You are not like me, therefore you must be bad and wrong. I can’t associate with you and must do what I can to discredit you.”
Too often the public interactions of our leaders seem more motivated by the preservation of power, than finding a common good. There is more talking than listening going on. In order to build community, we need to learn to listen. We have to realize that true power is accomplishing something great together, not in defeating the one another. As long as people are afraid of losing their power or are afraid of losing…period, then they will act as if all interactions are competitions. I know some of my worst moments have been motivated by anxiety. However, the Bible is clear that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love (2 Timothy 1:7). In fact we also read that perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:17-19). Jesus’ most harsh words were for those that used their power to take advantage of others and those who thought themselves better than others. Likewise, Jesus’ most compassionate words were for those who were vulnerable and repentant. I continue to pray that the love of God would overcome the hatred and fear that divides us. May the people of God demonstrate God’s love to one another and to the world.