From Divided to United

By Janett Miller
By Isaac Harris
By Charlyn Valencia
By Chad Golden
By Bruce Riley
By Jonathan Cortina
By Kuruvilla (K.O.) Oommen
By John Dyer
By Abe Paul
By Jennifer Durrett
By Penny Jones
By Amy Owen
By Jill Asibelua
By Madi McGraw
By Jared Barnett
By Paul Martin
By Jeremy Varnell
By Norm Headlam
By Kristi Herring
By Alban Snider
By Sissy Mathew
By Shannon Pugh
By Al Palamara
By Don Robb
By Mike Pope
By Melanie Mechsner
By Kyla Mikusek
By Michelle Garza
By Armando Galvan
By Jeremiah Betron
By Camille Holland
By Rod Myers
By Shannon Lewis
By Chase Studdard
By Crystal Elwell
By Darcy Peterson
By Jason Elwell
By Amy Aupperlee
By Tiffany Stein
By Barry Jones
By Bryan Eck
By Tricia Kinsman
By Jason Stein
By Nat Pugh
By Sarah Kemper
By Dana Myers
By Craig Pierce
By Jim Woodward
By Lindsey Sobolik
By Scott McClellan
By Andy McQuitty
By Pete Hyndman
By Kevin Dial
By Jason Roszhart
By Harvard Medical School
By Justin K. Hughes, MA, LPC
By Sherene Joseph
By Earl Davidson
By Rebecca Perry
By Joe Padilla
By Christian Melendez
By Bruce Riley
By Isaac Harris
By Amy Leadabrand
By Ben Haile
By Shaun Robinson
By Natalie Franks
By Cathy Barnett
By Ryan Sanders
By Casey Pruet, The Grace Alliance
By Sharon Arrington
By Lauren Chapin
By Betsy Paul
By Alberto Negron
By Kelly Jarrell
By Michelle Mayes
By Jenn Wright
By Jill Jackson
By Terri Moore
By Robyn Wise
By Katherine Holloway
By Richard Ray
By Kurtlery Knight
By Bruce Hebel
By Neil Tomba
By Tony Bridwell
By Grayson McGovern
By Luke Donohoo
By Kathy Whitthorne
By Mike Moore
By Wade Raper
By Mike Gwartney
By Jo Saxton
By Dieula Previlon
By Jonathan Cude
By Ken Lawrence
By Jay Hohfeler
By Barb Haesecke
By Lindsay Casillas
By JoAnn Hummel
By Shawn Small
By Alice McQuitty
By Jonathan Murphy
By Peggy Norton
By Brent McKinney
By Irving Bible Church
By Irving Bible Church
By Ashley Tieperman
By Betsy Nichols
By Trey Grant
By Debbie Lucien
By Sue Edwards
By Suzie Robinson
By Paul Smith

In 382 BC, the predecessor to Alexander the Great took the throne in the Greek kingdom of Macedon. His name was Philip and he left very little impact on human history except one phrase:

Divide and conquer. 

Philip led several battles to consolidate his power in the Balkan Peninsula, and he is credited with creating this military strategy to outwit his foes. Philip used political and geographic barriers to divide his enemies and keep them from uniting against him. A grab-bag of disconnected city-states was easier to conquer than a unified league of nations. What Philip knew 2,400 years ago is a lesson we could relearn today: divided people are vulnerable people; solidarity is a key to sustainability for any group.

America has never been more divided. Sure, we have had more bitter internal conflicts. We had a civil war, after all. But what we have today is more fractured than a North / South, left / right, Republican / Democratic duality. We are splintering to pieces — tiny shards of concern at pointy odds with all neighbors. We aren’t divided in two, we are shattered like safety glass. Black, white, blue, liberal, conservative, libertarian, gay, straight, pro-life, pro-choice, pro-business, pro-government, religious, secular, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, urban, suburban, rural, and on and on. 

Last week, I saw a documentary called “Best of Enemies” about the political debates between William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal before the 1968 presidential election. I have been haunted by that film’s closing lines:

That (1968) was a time when television was still a public square where Americans gathered and saw pretty much the same thing. There’s nothing like that now. The ability to talk the same language is gone. More and more, we’re divided into communities of concern. Each side can ignore the other side and live in its own world. It makes us less of a nation, because what binds us together is the pictures in our heads. But if those people are not sharing those ideas, they’re not living in the same place.

We aren’t living in the same place — not occupying the same national ethos — not living up to our constitution as the United States of America. 

There isn’t a Greek conqueror devising our division with designs for a military campaign. There isn’t a mastermind of our dissolving national unity. But there could be a mastermind of our reunification. What if the church of God took seriously her call to live at peace with all people and promote the universal shalom of Jesus? What if we saw pluralism as an opportunity to lead rather than just a problem to bemoan? After all, the church has lived through pluralism before, promoted, in fact, by that very same Greek culture to which Philip of Macedon belonged. 

One of my favorite television shows is “The Newsroom.” In it, Jeff Daniels plays cable news anchor Will McAvoy who gets so fed up with the vitriolic tone of American discourse that he goes on a “mission to civilize.” I wonder if we could follow his lead. And we might discover that he was only following the lead of the Apostle Paul. 

Writing to a church in a deeply sectarian culture in the first century, Paul said this:

For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph. 2:14-18)

Overcoming racial, religious, and cultural barriers means, first, acknowledging them. We can’t pretend our country’s divisions don’t exist. And then it means doing something about them. We can’t wait for someone else to fix this. If our nation is going to heal, it won’t happen because we elect the right president or hire enough cops. Police and politicians won’t save us; they can serve faithfully, but their platforms can’t heal the soul of our nation. That’s the Lord’s work. 

And it’s work we can do. 

Meaningful peace has to come from the people — from neighbors who listen to a different song than the discordant echoes blaring out of Washington, Cleveland, and Philadelphia this summer — from citizens who live with peace that passes understanding and friendships that defy cultural barriers.

This is exactly what IBC’s teachers have been challenging us to do. This summer, Craig Pierce preached that we should share a meal with someone who doesn’t look, act, or believe like us. This spring, Barry Jones admonished us to think about diversity at the communion table and our dinner tables. Two days after the police shooting that rocked our city, Mark Matlock pleaded with us to listen to our hurting neighbors — to seek understanding and common ground. These are the ways that we pursue our mission to civilize and our commission as agents of shalom. We bless our neighbors by doing the things that police and politicians can’t do — sharing a meal, giving our attention, surrendering our agenda so we can help others pursue theirs. 

Last week, I emailed the imam at the mosque in my neighborhood. I told him I am a pastor and his neighbor, and that I want to be a good neighbor to him. I told him that I understand how much of our current cultural disunity is driven by fear and suspicion, and that I thought we could overcome that suspicion if we knew one another. He responded promptly with an invitation to coffee. 

Meaningful peace comes when we refuse to engage suspicion, when we share coffee and neighborhoods with people who look, act, and believe differently than us. 

Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” When faith-filled Americans choose to embody love rather than shouting hate, we are doing the Lord’s work. For the sake of our nation and in obedience to the Bible, let's lead the way in reconciliation. Let’s do the hard work of loving our neighbors. Let’s take the shattered tribal factions of our nation and let Jesus create one new humanity.

We might just light the way for a rescue that not even Philip of Macedon could overcome.

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