In honor of primary election day I thought I would take a stab at offending the most people possible by talking about politics and religion; a daily double of antagonism if you will.
One of Jesus’ last recorded prayers in John chapter 17 tells us that the thing He wanted most for His people was unity; “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one.”
I am not Pollyannaish enough to think that by unity Jesus intends for us to agree about everything all the time. That kind of unity would be soul sucking and dissonant with the rhythms of life.
What, then, does Jesus mean by the idea of oneness? In Scripture He often compares the relationship between himself and the church to the relationship between a bride and a groom. Using the analogy of marriage, oneness requires a conscious decision by all parties to relinquish once and for all I, me and mine, for we, us and ours. Therefore, when we disagree about ideas, issues and principles there is no win/lose there is only win/win or lose/lose. Conflict is not a call for combat but an opportunity to grow and think differently and experience things you could never access by yourself.
Unfortunately, based on a cursory perusal of Facebook and Twitter feeds on any given day, it would appear that we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, often engage in the win/lose model of addressing the important issues of our day. The regularly explicit and always implicit message in our communications is “if you disagree with me you are not a Christian, or minimally a lousy Christian.”
We act more like politicians than brothers and sisters in the family of Jesus Christ. In fact I propose that our positions on the most important issues of our day including and especially theological issues, are more influenced by politics, politicians and pundits than the teachings of Jesus and the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Do we really believe that Jesus has a preference between capitalism and socialism or Republicans and Democrats or liberalism and conservatism, Calvinism or Arminiasm or between any other isms? Wait, don’t answer that, Facebook, Twitter, John Piper and Rob Bell and every blogger on the world wide interweb resoundingly say, “yes, He does.”
Jesus was clear that the only way we will ever have real influence to affect meaningful change in the world is through unity… “22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
That’s why the world doesn’t take us seriously—because we act more like arrogant politicians than humble peacemakers viewing conflict as a call to battle to be won or lost rather than an opportunity to grow and think differently.
Let’s get our house in order and seek to listen and understand rather than defeat and conquer. Let’s try building relationships with people who think and look differently than us. Friendship has a funny way of breaking down barriers.