It is time for me to speak out clearly against a pervasive evil in American society. Over the past several months I have had several moments of deep grief watching people I love exclude each other, demonize each other, and deeply wound each other. I have listened to people offering up a thousand versions of the statement “it’s us or them.”
This undertow of division has swept many of the people I love out to sea. When someone choses to maintain close ties to people on all sides of an issue, they are viewed at best with skepticism and at worst as a traitor by people on all sides.
I get it, but they voted for Trump (or Hillary). They are pro-choice (or life). They want gay people to be married (or not). But, can I let you in on a secret? God created them (whoever “they” are for you) and God loves them! Not only that, God wants to bless them and wants to spend eternity with them.
And here’s the craziest thing, God sent God’s one and only son to die as a sacrifice for their sin. You know the one. The one you hate. The sin they commit that causes you to say horrible things about them. Jesus died so that horrible sin would no longer separate them from God, so that they could be part of the family of God. It grieves the Spirit of God when those who claim to be following Jesus become part of this evil system of division.
Earlier this week I was talking with a mentor and heard myself slip into it. I heard myself saying that I’d rather not have to be in the same group as someone else God loves dearly that disagrees with me. Thank God my mentor responded with “But, we have to love them too. We have to try to see them the way God sees them.” There I sat having lamented this evil of division moments before, now participating in the furtherance of this vile sin myself.
I believe it is time for us to stop passively trying to resist it. It’s time to wage war against it. The band Gungor has a perfect metaphor in a song that is , in part, about this very thing. It says:
Prepare the way of the Lord
Wielding mercy like a sword
Every mountaintop will be made low
Know, He holds the earth like dust
And His judgement comes to us
And His judgement is love
His judgement is love
That’s it. Fighting this evil of division requires that we take up the sword of mercy. The only way to kill it is to offer audacious, gratuitous mercy to everyone. It is to build bigger tables and include more people, even people who think they are our enemies. When they exclude themselves from us, when they demonize us and say all kinds of false things against us, we pick up our sword of mercy and prepare the way of the Lord. The song goes further:
We will not fight their wars
We will not fall in line
Cause if it's us or them
It's us for them
It's us for them
I think that’s where we have to begin. We have to start listening for the “us or them.” Then, when we hear it, when we feel that primal urge to choose a side and fight for it, we pivot. We recognize the real war that is being waged is not us against them but against unity itself. When we hear “us or them” we choose to pull in closer and fight for unity. We choose to make it. “us for them.”