What is the solution to division in the church?
I know you have experienced it, too. There are so many things we can’t talk about. When they come up, we tighten up inside. Will it get ugly? Do I say anything? And while I hate the things that I feel, the frustration and the judgmentalism, I still can’t believe that “they” are that stupid! Then I feel judgmental and arrogant, but that is quickly overcome with fear and uncertainty, anxiety and even some sense of desperation.
Vaccines, race, politics, masks. We can’t get away from it. And we find ourselves so at odds with people, some of whom we trusted implicitly two years ago, whom we loved deeply and counted as our dearest friends. But now…
So what is the solution to this kind of nasty division? I find myself getting nervous just saying it. Naming the elephant in the room that people will name out loud, but usually only with people they know agree with them. Politics and science have driven wedges between friends and even threatened marriages and families. We are divided. What do we do? What is the solution?
When Paul wrote his letters, he wrote them to address the distinct issues specific to that city. For the most part, they weren’t intended for everyone, because everyone wasn’t struggling with the same things. The Colossians didn’t struggle with a man sleeping with his father’s wife. The Corinthians did. The Corinthians weren’t struggling with circumcising believers. The Galatians were.
The big problem in Ephesus was the disunity of the church – primarily between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. I facetiously call Ephesians the “Letter to the American church.” If you read between the lines in that letter, you can feel the arguments in our churches. Paul hit the need for unity pretty hard – because he needed to, because he had to.
He says that Gentiles and Jews, who often hated one another, when they believe in Jesus become one person, members of the same family, one entity. Polar opposites, Republicans and Democrats, even Trump and AOC, if and when they believe in Jesus, become part of one person, brothers and sisters, together inhabited by Jesus. Paul says in a variety of ways that Jews and Gentiles who know Jesus, while still from a Jewish or Gentile heritage, are no longer defined by that heritage. They are defined by Jesus.
In a nutshell, Jesus becomes bigger to and in them than their political or cultural beliefs. Now they don’t give up those beliefs and their distinct histories. But the presence of Jesus in their lives marks them so bigly (I like that word) that He dominates their perspective on their previous and present differences.
Our oneness in Jesus is bigger than our political and cultural differences. Is that true for you? I want it to be more true for me. I want Jesus to be so much bigger than this cultural divide.
But how does that happen? I have some thoughts there, but the first question really is, Do I want that to take place? Do I want the fact that we share Jesus to be bigger than the fact that we differ on current political and cultural issues?
What do you think?
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.
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