BRIDGING THE DIVIDE
I was in conversation yesterday about the political polarization we see today and the need to build more bridges across the divide. This person had recommended an upcoming workshop where attendees would discuss this, learn new communication skills, and then "have opportunities to practice those skills with each other."
All well and good on the surface, right. But the root of this problem is much deeper, and these sorts of exercises, while not useless, are of limited value in the long run. They're Band-Aids. Most people will quickly abandon them when challenged even a little bit because, well..., they're right and the "others" are just... wrong -- or evil or <fill in your favorite adjectives like a MadLibs>.
QUOTING DR. RAVI ZACHARIAS:
“Society is governed by politics. Politics has to be rooted in law. Law has to be safely rooted in good, moral reasoning.
"Moses gave his people 613 laws, David reduced them to 11 (Psalm 15:1-5), Isaiah reduced them to 6 (Isaiah 33:15-16) and Micah reduced them to three — do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before your God. Jesus Christ reduced them to just two (Matthew 22:36-40):
“When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, He said ‘to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all of the laws of all the prophets.'
“Because of the foundation of the first, the second naturally follows. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THE FIRST, THE SECOND HAS ITS FEET FIRMLY PLANTED IN THIN AIR. You must have the foundation of the sacred.
"God gave Adam only one law in the Garden of Eden: “Do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” But Satan twisted that by telling Adam and Eve they would become as God and could define their own good and evil.
“Look at our society today. All of the trees are now protected except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It has been uprooted.”
Large segments of our country, especially our coastal big cities, have become post-Christian, post-modernists. How many times this story repeats itself in the Bible and we still haven't learned a thing. In the Old Testament the Jewish nation rises and falls something like 6 times, each time the fall occurs when they have resisted or rejected God. They thought they could be their own gods and define their own good and evil. They took another bite of the apple.
As Zacharias says, we (society) cannot survive without the foundation of the sacred, and our country was founded on these Judeo-Christian principles but a persistent effort by some has all but shredded the welcome mat for God in our country. That's a problem. God doesn't like that.
Two thousand years ago he sent his only son Jesus to teach us exactly what he wants from us and the way to proceed. Christ gave us exactly two laws to follow on which everything else rests:
1) LOVE God with all your heart, soul and mind.
2) LOVE your neighbor as yourself.
Why not just one law -- love God? That seems reasonable. Because God is not about religion, He's about relationship. Godly love, Greek 'agape', is multi-dimensional, it's relational, and the relationship is between you and God thru Christ as well as between you and other people. God is Love and we are to strive to be like Him. Christ is our doorway to God. Without Christ and his immense love for us, we are permanently separated from God. "But," Paul writes in Romans 5:8 (btw, aren't you glad for the word 'but' here?), "God demonstrates his own LOVE for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
What is this love? In English we use the word love for lots of things. What Jesus was talking about was an unconditional love for God and for each other. Unconditional. That doesn't mean we have to love or even like everything someone does or says. Some people you just need to "love them from a distance." It doesn't mean to just love those you agree with politically, theologically or otherwise. Jesus tells us to LOVE our enemies (Luke 6:35):
46 "If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that."
Matthew 5:46-47 NLT
Love the murderer? Yes.
Love Trump? (gulp) Yes!
Love Hillary? (gulp) Yes!!
At a minimum, we simply need to love everyone because they are God's creations and everything God creates is fundamentally good. That's showing humility and respect for God. Now, some people will choose to corrupt what is good and/or use it to commit evil, but that's not for you to decide -- that's for God to deal with.
WE ARE NOT GOD
Repeat: We are not God. God is God. We cannot determine why someone does what they do, nor should we presume so. We don't know other people's hearts -- only God does. We don't know where people are on their journey. God will judge everyone -- that's his job and his alone.
"Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord (Deut. 32:35)
"17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”"
So, yeah, that's pretty clear. Stay in your lane.
KIM - SURELY 'RIGHTEOUS ANGER' IS OK?
We are commanded only to love, not to be angry and judgy (what a dreadful combination that is!). As tempting and emotionally satisfying as it is, we are NOT ENTITLED to any righteous anger because there is no such thing. (1) Anger and love cannot coexist. And (2) we are not in any way righteous:
Romans 3:10 (NIV): “There is no one righteous, not even one;"
Isaiah 64:6 (NIV): "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;"
Filthy rags. That's a little harsh. Certainly gets your attention.
Christ loves unconditionally. He never once met someone who he was like, yeesh you're disgusting, that's gross, I can't save you. No, instead he went toward the sinners, the lost and the broken, he confronted righteous anger and adversity, he repeatedly told us that no matter how much better we think we are than those "awful people" over there, in God's eyes we are ALL filthy and disgusting.
If we think we're better than the murderer, Jesus says that if we even hate a person in our hearts we are just as guilty. If we think we're better than the adulterer, Jesus says that if we even lust after someone we are just as guilty.
GET OVER YOURSELF
So let's get over ourselves. None of us is any better than anyone else. We're all broken. It's the human condition, literally the oldest story of mankind (Gen 3).
SO, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, STOP GETTING OFFENDED AND ANGRY.
You have no right to it. You're a mess and so am I.
The only antidote is Jesus Christ. It is only through him, through his perfect righteousness, that we are redeemed and reunited with God. Life separate from God is the very definition of "Hell" and it's bad. You'll wish you could be just lights-out dead.
THE PRICE WE PAY
When you have a nation of people who are not grounded in God's Word, who do not fear God, who worship themselves and political ideologies above, beside or instead of God, you have a recipe for disaster. Meaningful and lasting dialogue and bridge building among secular factions is not possible because there's no love there, no solid launching-off point. Morality is untethered, suspended in mid-air and subject to prevailing winds, and truth is relative to each person or group. It's unworkable. It's a hot mess.
Nonetheless, as a practical matter it's important to build bridges AS BEST WE CAN, but we need to recognize the severe limitations of that. These are temporary bridges. They're not anchored in bedrock like great bridges are (e.g., Golden Gate, Brooklyn). With a little stress they WILL fall. The needed bedrock is the sacred, absolute, unchanging Truth. The Love of God. Without God as our firm foundation we are nothing, and nothing we do, however well intended, will prosper.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV):
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
THE HIGHWAY TO HELL
It's said that the highway to hell is paved with good intentions. Jesus put it this way:
13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
More chillingly in Luke 13:23-30:
The Narrow Door
23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”
He replied, 24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’
28 “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. 29 And people will come from all over the world—from east and west*, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God.
30 And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.”
*In verse 29 try substituting "left and right" for "east and west."
GIVE GOD SOME CREDIT
God is above politics. He's above science, human reason, man-made 'religion' and time. He's above all creation. Those who fix their eyes no higher than immediate earthly things they can see, experience and "prove" are missing the bigger picture which is far more glorious and powerful and full of pure love and acceptance than any Frankenstein we can cobble together ourselves.
Quoting Dr. Zacharias one more time:
"True liberty only comes when a person fully gives his or her life to God and lives for his eternal purposes. Jesus Christ didn't come into this world to make bad people good, he came to make dead people live."
Without God we are dead, as individuals and as a nation.
So, communications workshops are great and all, but:
- You want to bridge the political divide in this country?
- You want to fix what's wrong?
- You want justice and healing?
- You want peace instead of discord, unity instead of division?
- You want what's right and good?
Then give this country back to God. And give yourself to God through the *only* one who can save us, Jesus Christ:
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12 NIV
As far as I can tell, that's the answer. <><