This past week, the news and various other media sources have been filled again with some of the same rhetoric that seems to do little to build or unify the people subjected to it. Instead, we see disruption and division and little attention given to possible ways forward or the things we have in common. As I watch and listen to politicians, athletes, workers, business owners, and even everyday common folk like you and me, I wonder what their individual goal or objective is for participating in recent events (notice how I am vague about what defines “event,” allowing each reader to imagine their own understanding of which “event” I might be referring to)? I can only imagine how many different responses there might be as to what has motivated them to say or to do what they have done.
I have often described some of what I am witnessing as “painting with a broad brush.” I did this very thing previously using “event.” In other words, the one who is communicating, like an artist who wants to tell a story with a painting they are creating, is using either a broad-tipped brush or perhaps gets sloppy with their movements or hurries to finish, and consequently those who receive the artist’s work are sometimes left challenged by the painting. It may be unclear what was intended and not be an accurate portrayal of what was on the heart of the artist. People may be left confused, questioning, disappointed, upset or so much more.
My point is not only to encourage us to think more carefully before we communicate about an event that may be divisive or disruptive so that fewer people are confused or offended (although careful thought before speaking can often help “tame the tongue” (James 3: 1-12)), but to seek ways that uplift and encourage one another instead.
While there are plenty of Biblical stories that speak to separation or division (the stories that reflect a people set apart by God as a chosen people of the covenant; the Mosaic laws that served to both separate and remind the people of their relationship with God; Jesus confronting the church leaders of his day or turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, to name a few), there seems to be an even greater emphasis by God to unite all people in a right relationship with God and thereby one another so that the world can become more reflective of the kingdom God envisions (the Incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are at the core of this work).
I wonder if God sheds a tear when Christians spend more time excluding others or villainizing people, or fail them with lack of care or concern. When we take a stand or position, is it Christ-like or based on something else? Even ideals or concepts that may be good and appealing on their own may not be Christ-like at times or in some situations. And if those ideals are a part of a “broad stroke of the brush,” and take precedence over our love for Christ, then we need to repent and seek healing that only Christ can provide. We must stay connected to God.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15: 4-5)
Stay connected and abide in Christ so that your fruit is sweet and reflective of Christ Jesus. We are not perfect, but staying a part of the vine (a living, fruit-bearing branch participates in the life of the vine) helps us stay mindful of our roots in God so that we are working to unify people in the abundant love of God. God seeks us all, even when we disagree with one another. When God is our common desire, wonderful things happen and people’s lives are changed!
See you in worship!