Us and Them

Southerland Springs, TX. Not a town I had heard of before this week. And yet, here I sit with a heavy heart, and a burden. I need to say something, to say anything.

An evil man took a weapon into a worship service and slaughtered innocents. Looking at the list of victims genuinely breaks my heart.

I’m not here to say anything in the typical political discourse. All of the easy statements have already been made. Gun rights / Gun Control. Domestic Violence. Mental Health. In the theater of public reaction to tragedy, all of those things have been thrown out and argued over ad nauseam with every new report. I don’t have anything to add on that front. I do, however, want to address something that is rampant in 2017: Division and bunker mentalities are more pervasive than they have ever been. Every single situation has turned into “Us vs Them.”

Partisan politics have eliminated a middle ground. Look on any social media platform and you can see stark lines being drawn in the sand where if you hint at sympathy for the opposing view, you’re a traitor. No longer is it possible to be a centrist who decides independently where they stand on each individual issue, but instead we have a political climate of completely toeing the line on a party’s stance or being completely shunned. In today’s climate, we would never have a Democratic president like John F Kennedy whose Catholic beliefs decried abortion. It is a political environment where a Republican president like Theodore Roosevelt could never be a conservationist that championed preserving public lands.

This really isn’t limited to politics. We divide ourselves so neatly into groups by team preference, coffee choice, skin color, location of living, language, background, music preferences, and petty things like who’s friends with who first. Even inside the body of Christ we divide and segregate over all kinds of petty things. A church breaking apart over hard hearts and hurt feelings is so antithetical to the mindset of the earliest church. Acts 2:44 describes a group that had all things in common, regardless of personality or status.

We have reached a point where we cannot even have empathy for others in a time of tragedy, but instead we turn the thoughts inward to ourselves. “What if it happened to us? What if it happened here?” It did happen to us.

It happened to us, Americans. It happened to us, Texans. It happened to us, Christians. It happened to us: brothers and fathers, sisters and mothers. It happened to us: young and old, healthy and frail.

There is a Latin phrase that formed the core of America’s identity in the early days. “E Pluribus Unum” - Out of Many, one. This idea of many independent people and ideas coming together as one is imbedded deeper still in the concept of the church. The Body of Christ is one. The Bride of Christ, all of us together, with one purpose and goal. Robert Webber wrote in his book Worship Is A Verb, “… the primary work of the church is worship.” Our primary response to being the church is to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because we are drawn together in Christ, we are to mourn with those who mourn.

Paul wrote in Romans how we should relate to each other in the Body. We are to rejoice when there are times of rejoicing, and mourn in times of mourning. Whatever happens to one of the Body, happens to all of us (Romans 12:5).

Why do we need to segregate? Why do we give in to the basest urge to only surround ourselves with people that are exactly like us? Division is the work of the enemy, and is the opposite of fellowship. The Trinity exists in perpetual, continual, eternal fellowship. We as Christians are bound together through the Blood of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Fellowship should be the easiest thing for us.

My prayer for all of us is the same as Paul for the church at Colossae: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." Colossians 3:12-15

God bless you, and may we find unity in Christ.

-Pastor Josh