A divisive presidential election. A protested inauguration. The Women’s March. Democrat vs. Republican. Liberal vs. Conservative. Rural vs. Urban. Blue states vs. Red States. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Rich, poor. Black, White, Hispanic.
People are divided… politically, economically, geographically, spirituality, by gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. As Christ-followers, it is easy to begin to see the world and other people in the “us vs. them” paradigm. Without much effort, we begin to relate to others based on our differences with them. When we relate to others based on our differences, we tend to be defensive, focus more on being right than kind, or gravitate toward isolation and association only with people “like” us.
While “us vs. them” feels necessary, is it biblical? How then do we live in a nation divided into so many different identities and ideologies?
1) We must not be surprised when the “world” does not act like “us” as Christ-followers, and we must remember what we were like before Christ.
We all should read and reread Titus 3:3. Because of who we were pre-Jesus and what He did for us (Romans 5:8), Christ-followers should be the most humble, gentle, patient, and merciful people on the planet. It is not “us vs. them”, it is “us” in humble compassion and grace toward “them.”
2) We must get judgment right.
We are called to judge sin IN the church—the sin of Christians or of those who claim to be (I Corinthians 5:13). This means our posture is “us” versus the sin we found in ourselves and each other in the church. Paul commands the church to live so that those outside the church can’t criticize (Philippians 2:14-15) and instructs church leaders to have good reputations among non-believers (I Timothy 3:7). For example, are we more concerned about what the Supreme Court says about marriage or about how the people in our small group are actually doing in their marriage?
Why is this important? So that our testimony of Christ can be heard without distraction or creating disgust, and we are reminded that this testimony is how God is for people in Jesus, not against them (John 3:17). In other words, we are not tools of condemnation for “them”; instead we are ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) and “salt and light” to “them” (Matthew 6:13-16).
3) We must manage the tension between truth and love with wisdom.
By relativizing truth to individuals, one’s ideological preference, or one’s dominant identity, all we need is love, right? The world only wants to hear about acceptance, tolerance, and equality guised under the category of “love.” However, there is such a thing as absolute, objective truth. To ignore or dismiss truth does not make it less true; however, to hide truth is potentially unloving. However, we do not share truth in pride or condemnation or to be right or to win an “us vs. them” battle. As Tim Keller said in a sermon, “truth without love is imperious self-righteousness. Love without truth is cowardly self-indulgence.” As human beings, we all need truth, and we all need love. We need truth expressed with love and love that aims at truth.
4) We must go deeper into the gospel to live effectively in the world today.
The gospel humbles us with the difficult truth about ourselves, yet displays our worth through the radical love of God. The gospel tells us the ground at the foot of the cross is level, and that we are all fellow pilgrims searching for the truth that will free us and the love that will not disappoint us. In the gospel, it is not “us vs. them.” It is all of us in need of the One Who became one of us: to die for us, to die instead of us, and to rise from the dead to give life to any of us who would place our faith in Him.