“Us vs them.”
This is the way the United States of America began. This is the narrative we both love and hate. The righteous crusaders vs the evil villains. The rebels vs the oppressors.
This story has been with me as far back as I can recall. I remember running around the neighborhood with my friends playing all sorts of “us vs them” games. We would often intentionally divide ourselves into teams with more tension than just picking captains could provide. “I’m the Chicago Bulls. You are the Detroit Pistons.” “I’m the USA, you are the Soviets.” Even then, I had an image of who “them” was. It was always a wicked group of people who didn’t look like me, think like me, dress like me, or act like me.
I wish I could say I grew out of this. Unfortunately, I have an image and an ideology which I have comfortably created for the “them’s” of this world. I invent a Straw Man for all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. If I am honest, my motivation is usually my own safety and comfort.
An election like the one we have just witnessed is the perfect recipe to amplify this narrative to the utmost degree. I cannot remember a time in my life when more people have attempted to persuade me to their “side” with more vigor and passion. And it makes perfect sense as to why this has happened. The things we divide over are no longer childhood games. There are major consequences at stake. Future generations will live with our decisions. So, we do the next most logical thing when we are confronted with a villain who threatens what we hold dear… we fight them. We go to war against them and we pull out every tactic in the book.
While this makes sense for our American culture as a whole, this makes no sense for those who trust in Christ for all of their hope and freedom. There is no room for “us vs them” in the Church. It is the antithesis of the Gospel. We cannot accept tremendous grace and condemn our brother and sister at once. We cannot accept infinite mercy for sin while judging those in the way of the wrath of God.
It cannot be "us vs them”; it can only be “us for them."
We have misunderstood an important distinction of who it is we are fighting against when we are told this life will be a battle. But Paul makes it clear for us in Ephesians 6:12. He says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
In other words, our fight is not with people, it is for people - people who are still enslaved to sin as their ruler. Our primary priority must be to storm the gates of hell rather than the gates of the White House. Jesus himself teaches this distinction in John 18:36 when He says, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Mere moments later He would walk the road to Calvary and wear a crown of thorns in place of gold.
When I am confronted with Jesus' sacrifice for myself and for the world I must ask myself… Do my priorities and actions reflect the cross of Christ? Does my compassion for my brother or for the lost have a limit? Have I invented a “them”?
I invite you to ask these questions with me but more than that I invite you to pray with me. Pray for the Church to realize its calling to be missional over comfortable. Pray for the Church to be unified over divided. And pray for the lost to be found. May we follow Jesus' call to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."