I’m really saddened by all the division I see happening around us. Not just in society, but also in our churches. It has been on my heart to address this topic from a Biblical perspective, in contrast with all the secular ideas about how divided we are, and why, and what to do about it. There are three areas that come to mind when I think about how we can overcome division and “cross the great divide”: loving others like Jesus loves us, offering and asking for forgiveness, and not holding onto the past but looking to things ahead.
Biblically we are called to love our neighbors as we do ourselves (see Mark 12:28-31). I am inspired even more by what Jesus commanded in John 15:12. He said we should “Love each other as I have loved you…” which raises the bar on HOW we are to love. Loving someone as I love myself seems a bit easier, because at times I don't love myself very much. BUT loving others as Jesus loves me, well, that takes me out of myself and places my thoughts and actions on how He loves me. What would our communities and churches look like if we treated others, and loved them the way we are experiencing Jesus’ love for each of us? Doing this is harder, in my view, so I’m encouraged to keep pressing on to know Him more.
Forgiveness…when and why? First, I would like to say forgiveness, just like love, is a choice and not simply a feeling. Forgiveness doesn't mean we forget what others may or may not have done. It means we no longer hold the offense against them. Can we hold onto unforgiveness until we decide it’s time to “let it go”? Or are we to forgive immediately? Colossians 3:13 says “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” How many times? Jesus answered that question from Peter in Matthew 18:21-23 by saying “Seventy times seven”! I don't know about you, but that seems to be more than I can handle. Praise God He is strong in my weakness! Ephesians 4:26-27 gets our attention by saying, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” This scripture forces me to get over my anger, pride, shame, or whatever it is that keeps me from forgiving others.
The third way to deal with division pertains to how we handle our past. This issue can be one that causes and maintains division between us. Our choice to not let go of the past can be about either good or bad experiences. In Philippians 3:13-14 ESV, Paul tells us, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I look around and see people destroying their present or sabotaging their future, simply because they cannot, or refuse to, let go of their past. Our memories can be debilitating to life and our Christian walk if they control our direction. As Paul decided, you and I should not hold onto the past believing it will bring us some present or future gain. That is called manipulation and there is a better way. We are to learn from the past and press on toward God’s upward call. Secular worldviews tend to hold onto and use the past, or even try to rewrite it, for personal gain. Sometimes this is done believing we can make some gains for a group. A biblical worldview forgets things in the past, for God is with us in the present to give us a hope for the future. Our purpose as a Christian is to focus on the endgame, eternity, while living for God’s glory here and now. We know we will face suffering, and sadly, some people suffer more than others in this broken and busted world. However, choosing to compare suffering can lead us astray. God calls us to do His will and not to focus on comfort or comparison while following Jesus (check out Jesus’ other response to Peter when he asked “Lord, what about him?” in John 21).
We are called by God’s word to love others, forgive them, and forget the things of the past. It can seem simpler when that is about someone who has offended me. I must also respond when the Holy Spirit makes me aware that I’ve offend someone else. The division between us can be crossed part of the way when I choose to do what is biblical when offended. To really shrink the divide I must do my part to SEEK AND ASK for forgiveness. If I stay self-centered and silent, I may be increasing the division without even recognizing it. It’s easier to blame others for a rift, while at the same time neglecting to look at my part in the process. How are we helping to cross the spaces between us no matter who is responsible for the offense?
Jesus is the One who brings unity and we can overcome division by walking together with Him.
Peace and joy.
Kevin Weston 7-10-2020