November 17, 2016

Unity: Because We Get To, Not Because We Have To

The newfound desire by many liberally minded to understand “the other” in the USA since the Trump election is noble, but it’s not enough and it certainly would not have been on the agenda if Hillary had won.  The dividing lines would still be drawn.

It did indeed warm my heart to read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald for example, in which a gay journalist decided to unblock his conservative uncle’s Facebook feed.  Yet I have to ask, would such generosity of spirit be the case if the political circuit had not been broken?  I think not.  Though to be honest, after reading the article, I’d probably be inclined to block his uncle too!

But the sudden rush by those who kept insisting that everyone else get on “the right side of history”, coming as it did when you know, history proved to be more complicated than they’d imagined – more like a roller coaster than a cable car ride -, seems built more out of necessity than it does out of desire.

 It could be a case, after all, of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.  It could simply be another step in the long march through the institutions. And in another four years time if Trump proves to be a chump, whose to say such a noble desire to listen to “the other” will stick? It may depend, once again, on the votes in Florida. And that’s way too much weight for a state to bear.

Whatever it is, it certainly is clear that if Hillary had squeaked across the line then none of this introspective self-analysis would have been forthcoming.  None of this from the New York Times, for example, which I subscribe to in order to, you know, keep my friends close and my enemies closer:


There’s a whole lot there, except the word sorry.

But I digress.  Here’s my point:  The church has a level of diversity among its members that would be the envy of any globalising liberal, and a unity among its members that would be the envy of any patriotic conservative. And it’s not simply because we have to, it’s because we get to!

King Jesus brings together those at enmity not just with God, but with each other. In fact if you can show me a bigger dividing wall through the ages than that between Jew and Gentile I’ll be impressed.  I’d be even more impressed if you showed me how it could be broken down like this:

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16).

The greatest “unfriending” in the universe, that between us and God, was undone by Jesus, and the fruit of that is the “friending” of the previously hostile parties, Jew and Gentile.

Yes there is a “have to” command because of the gospel.  But there is a magnificent “get to” as well.

And I have seen the fruit of that in beautiful ways down the years.  I have seen it as my mum, who was married by firebrand Loyalist preacher and politician, Ian Paisley, was part of a Bible Study in Northern Ireland with a young Republican sympathiser with no hands (He blew them off making a bomb for the IRA).

I have seen it in the simple way I have a close friendship with one of our leaders at church who is a gun-shooting, tradie who left school at fourteen, with a background in doing standover for a drug dealer, and whose idea of a good time is camping somewhere with no toilet. There’s nothing better than having coffee with him and praying.

And I’ve seen it vividly and emotionally, as two men in our church, one who’d be on the progressive side of politics and one who would definitely be on the conservative side, spent time with each other, as the former drove the later to chemotherapy in the city week by week last year, as cancer aggressively took hold.  The grief at his death was the sweet grief of brothers in Christ who loved each other.

When I mentioned this last example during my sermon last week my sermon ended there.  It had to, or I would have been a blubbering, but joy-filled mess.

Afterwards my more progressive brother put his arm around me and simply said “And I’m looking forward to sharing a car journey with him in the age to come.”

That will be a sweet day of unity indeed.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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