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 NEXT BIG THING

Putin seems oblivious to the posturing of the United States and its allies as he follows his destructive plans for Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine today after weeks of posturing and threats, and the whole world is aghast at such a display of imperialism.

Putin seems oblivious to the posturing of the United States and its allies as he follows his destructive plans for Ukraine.

This event will dominate the evening news of the major networks and the 24-hour-cycle of continuing news as the reporters continue to rehash and repeat what they have said during their previous opportunity.

Most other newsworthy items will fall by the wayside for the foreseeable future. We will probably hear little about the pandemic.

For fundamentalist Christians, the discussion will be around the signs of the end-times as our prophets and preachers make capital of the fear through blog posts and books.

Conspiracy theorists will point to the decline of COVID so that something else is necessary to keep the population under the control of fear.

Liberal Christians will decry the injustices perpetrated by both Putin and Biden as innocent people become victims of the collateral damage caused by both the aggression and the retaliation.

Politicians will hold their comments until social media is in full swing so that they can check the temperature of their constituents.

Of course, all this is merely speculation on my part. We will not know for certain how things will things will shake out. By the time this article is published, the world as we know it could be so radically altered that we might wake up with a completely different state of affairs.

But, I doubt it.

Jesus said, “And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” (Lk 21:9)

This is not a verse that people like to quote. We would rather give into our fear and concern so that we can talk about how the world is about to fall apart.

That is not where the Christian who is committed to following Jesus should stand.

“… (B)ut the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”
(Dan 11:32) We should be able to take action rather than crouch in fear.

Also, the committed Christian should be a peacemaker. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mat 5:9)

You are called to bring peace into the hearts of those who have allowed themselves to be terrorized by the next big thing to come on the earth.

However, you cannot do that if you are also one who engages in the conversations of fear and speculation about that over which you have no control.