US AGAINST THEM

Division in our society is more marked today than ever before. Christians should not be a part of this division, but we are. What can be done about this?

A DIVIDED SOCIETY

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I believe everyone would agree that our society has become more divided than ever before in our lifetime.

We have always had divisions, differences in beliefs, party lines and denominations.

Fortunately, over the past three decades there has been a decline in the animosity once felt between denominations.

However, in the realm of political thinking about issues within society, there has been an increase in the acrimony expressed by opposing groups.

We have witnessed physical attacks on people for wearing a certain kind of ball cap.

We have also seen physical attacks on those who have been found without a piece of cloth over their face.

People who have been lifelong friends suddenly find themselves in a persona non grata status with their friend.

Being ostracized from the family—something that was formerly limited to the Amish and the Muslims—has now become commonplace in our society.

The current dividing line is your opinion about Mr. Putin, the leader of Russia who has chosen to invade Ukraine.

Almost everyone has experienced this divisive attitude at one level or another over any one of these issues.

Certainly we cannot be happy with this!

Is this the way it is supposed to be?

Will it always be this way?

It will continue to be this way for as long as we as a society continue to view anyone as “the other.”

We seem to have grown comfortable with an “US vs THEM” mentality.

Paul encountered this same divisive attitude in his day.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Col 3:11

Paul is pointing to the things that people used to divide themselves back in his time.

If he were writing today, he would say there is neither black nor white, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican.

We would probably look at that and say he was out of touch with reality. For, of course those groups exist.

The groups he spoke of from his day also existed.

There definitely were then, and there definitely are now, people from different religions, different economic classes, and different parts of the world.

So what was Paul getting at?

Let’s look at this verse from a different translation.

In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Col 3:11 NLT

He is talking about how we should view things from a new and different perspective, because we should have a different worldview.

As a believer, we should not be subject to the world’s way of doing things.

We are not of those who make distinctions between one another.

Paul also said this in a different way in another passage.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 2Co 5:16

Regarding Christ or anyone according to the flesh causes us to make distinctions in our thinking.

Those distinctions are based on our own fleshly value judgments.

Those value judgments will inevitably lead to separation.

Separation leads to division.

And division leads to war.

While it may not be a major war between countries, any animosity between two people is a war.

And war is what we are seeing in our society today.

Politically and sociologically, we know this sharp divisive attitude is caused by a lack of understanding.

It is up to you and me and any other believer who may read and understand this, that we are to stem the tide of division in our society.

I know that sounds like a tall order when you consider yourself and the vastness of society.

But, it is not so overwhelming if you apply the principle of elephant-eating.

How do you eat an elephant?

You remember how to eat an elephant, right?

One bite at a time.

And that is what Paul was saying in the context of our verse.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Col 3:8

Notice that anger, wrath, malice, and slander are each directed at others.

These are each the result of a separation and division from the other, at least in the moment.

Paul then goes on with how we can slow that divisiveness between us as far as we are concerned.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
Col 3:9

Have you put off the old self?

Have you put away that part of who you were that made distinctions and judged others as being something “less than?”

In another place, Paul tells us to put off the old man, the old life; but here he says that we already have done that.

It is a statement of fact—you have put off the old.

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Col 3:10

He says this as a matter of fact—you have put on the new self.

And that new self is being constantly renewed in knowledge after the image of that new self’s creator.

Growth comes from the constant renewal in knowledge.

What we know changes as we grow.

We also find that some things we knew before have changed from what we were told.

For instance, I graduated high school in 1965 when there were only 98 elements on the Periodic Table in chemistry.

Today there are 118—20 more than when I graduated.

Fortunately, the ones I recall are still there—not like the planets which has added to, taken away and put back again.

The point, though, is that if we are being renewed in knowledge which is bringing us to be more like Christ, then we should also be changing.

We should be always changing in the things we say, do, and think about others until we have the full mind of Christ.

Jesus said something that pertains to this idea of division and what we can do about it.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  
Matt 5:9

A pistol known as the Colt 45 was known for a time as the “peacemaker,” but that is not what Jesus meant.

He did not talk so much about those who could stop a fight through an intervention—whether lethal or otherwise.

He was talking about those, who by the very presence of their being, are peacemakers.

Peacemakers are those who do not get entangled in the divisive nature of our world.

They are able to remain aloof from all the propaganda and news stories and fear predictions of the preachers of doom.

They are able to help calm the fears of those who do tend to get distracted by all the noise.

I was listening to a chaplain recount an experience he had in Iraq.

He was in the back of one of those transports—I don’t know what they are called—and they were heading out into the battle area.

The soldier sitting next to him said, “Chaplain I am glad you are here today.”

Of course, the chaplain appreciated the comment, because he knew that he was there to bring comfort to the soldiers.

He asked the soldier, though, “Why are you glad that I am here?”

The soldier said, “I just feel safer having you present with us.”

That is a peacemaker. His presence made a difference.

Let’s return to our original verse to see one last thing about getting rid of an “Us vs Them” mentality.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but
Christ is all, and in all.
Col 3:11

It is not until we are able to see the truth of this statement that we will then be able to get rid of our divisive thinking.

Christ is all and in all.

We do not truly believe that as a society.

Just consider all the struggles we have gone through in our own country since Jefferson penned the words.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The black man has had to struggle to even be recognized as human, let alone equal.

Women have had to struggle to even be recognized as human, let alone equal.

But this truth—that Christ is all and in all—has so penetrated my heart and consciousness that I can no longer view anyone as worse or better than I.

The result, for me, has been that I am grieved when I hear conversations that degenerate into an Us vs Them.

I hear it among fellow pastors talking about other churches.

I hear it among my friends concerning the political landscape.

Yes. We are going to have differences of opinions about all manner of things; but there is no reason to view the other side as stupid, out-of-touch, mean, ignorant or any other negative type.

When we do, we are not able to love as Jesus loved, which we are called to do by the grace of God.

Let us make love our aim, our goal.

Ask the Lord to increase the size of your love-bucket, and go pour some love out on people.

There is more than enough to go around, but not enough is being shared these days.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1Co 13:13

It is good that you have faith.

It is good that you have hope.

But, most importantly, you should have love.

Let this week provide you an opportunity to love in a way that you have never experienced before.

May your heart be enlarged to a place of resistance against any Us vs Them thinking.

THE BIBLE AND THE WORD OF GOD

Why must we always resort to only black or white, either/or, this, but not that, or us vs them? Why is there no room in our thinking or beliefs for other possibilities?

Open-mindedness does not require that we accept everything that comes along, but that we are open to the possibility that I may be wrong; and when confronted with different facts, being willing to change my stance.

Within the grace, hyper-grace, radical grace movement there is much talk about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is certainly a good practice to avoid this sort of classification in our daily life. Yet, I find within this very movement a continual table being spread for this type of unfulfilling nourishment.

I see it manifest under two different categories, but both still reek of bad food—religion & the word of God. These two seem to be the soup du jour for many.

I have found that being in opposition does not draw anyone, but actually pushes them away. By “opposition” I mean the continual hammering, yammering about the “other” side (of whatever).

The one that grieves me most at this time is around “the Word of God.”

This is the third time in my experience when a movement has produced a group who want to do away with the Bible. For some, it is truly a “hobby horse” that they ride dusk til dawn.

For instance, I usually use a verse from the Bible when making a point. If I post that on social media, I will invariably get a comment along the lines of “the Bible is not to be trusted.”

No comment nor reference to the point that was made in the post. Totally out of context. It was simply a “buzz word” that set their hobby horse to rockin’.

Why is it that we take a statement from the Bible—“In the beginning was the word…”—and try to use it to prove that the Bible is not the word of God? Irony?

Many will take this passage, go to the Greek, and show that the Logos is Jesus.

Guess what?

He is.

However, that fact in and of itself does not eliminate any other possibility for the use of logos.

Consider—“And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,” (Acts 15:15 ESV)“

Words” is logos in its plural form, logoi. Those words were spoken and written, and held meaning for James and the other apostles who were debating the admitting of Gentiles into their Christian communities.

For them, their Bible of that time—the Tanakh—helped to guide them into unfamiliar places.

This also proved to be the practice of others, such as those in Berea, which was about 900 miles from Jerusalem. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Act 17:11 ESV)

These people listened to the new thing Paul was preaching without being antagonistic. Then they went home and searched their scriptures (the Tanakh) for proof.

Paul even used the term “the word of God” when referring to these writings. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,” (Rom 9:6 ESV)

He goes on to illustrate his point by quoting from the “word of God.”

Even if we only accept this as “The Scriptures” or the “Word of God”, then we are left with still understanding that there is a “written word of God.”

However, it is through the modern (at that time) writings of Paul and others where we learn that the Tanakh is no longer a part of our heritage or guide.

Yet, nowhere in this more modern section of the Bible we call the New Testament do we find any indication that we are to do away with even these writings—these transcriptions of “logoi” given by others.

The phrase “the word of God” occurs 43 times in the ESV. It is most often written in the genitive case, which has the meaning of either source, concerning or possession.

Obviously, ‘concerning’ is the major meaning when referring to God or truth or Jesus. However, that fact does not eliminate other possibilities.

Consider, for instance Paul’s statement in 1Th 2:13 ESV—“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

This is an obvious use of source as the meaning of the genitive. The words that Paul spoke are not the words that come from men, but words that come from God. They are the “words of God.”

Why, then, when they are recorded and written down are they no longer the “words of God”?

Why, then, when they are recorded and written down
are they no longer the “words of God”?

We go too far with our humanistic logic sometimes. We try to apply some sort of logic to one concept found in the Bible, and then extrapolate all kinds of meaningless stuff from that one point.“

Meaningless” because it only serves our particular limited understanding, but in no way seems to further our growth in grace, mercy and love.

Mind candy only.

Yes, there are people who will not be exposed to this article whom you may think they should. That is not up to us, but the Holy Spirit.

I wrote this mainly with concern for those who are on the fence, teetering back and forth with the concepts presented here. There is often someone who comes into an understanding of grace, who then expresses concern and confusion due to what others are saying.

I do not mean that any kind of restrictions should be placed on us and what we share. Each one of us are in a different place in our walk with the Lord.

However, I would hope that those of you who are more mature than others could understand this, and not feel that every little thing that goes against your particular belief must be corrected. It does little good other than to reveal a negativity of heart and mind that is not conducive to love and grace.

I’ll close this with another “proof text” from the Bible. You decide if this is in accordance with the way God would want us to act.

“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” (2Ti 2:14 ESV)

Any and all comments, questions and/or criticisms are welcome.