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The Speed of Unity: Loving others in a culture of conflict

The level of suspicion of other people’s motives is higher than ever. Jesus warned, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart” (Matthew 12:25, NLT).

More than a century and a half ago, Abraham Lincoln echoed these words of Jesus in one of his most famous speeches. At the time, in 1858, our nation was being torn apart by the issue of slavery. Lincoln told the Republican Party delegates in Springfield, Illinois, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. … I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect that it will cease to be divided.”

George Floyd tragically died just a few miles from where I’m writing these words. In days, Minneapolis became the epicenter of chaos in our country. During the riots that followed, the reactions in our community were literally night and day.

During the morning hours, people from churches all over the city showed up on the streets to sweep and shovel broken glass and help store owners board up their shops. We didn’t choose sides; we’re for everybody. But the nights were a different story. Peaceful demonstrations provided cover for extremists. Vandalism, rioting and looting shattered the peace and created terror among residents of the city. The evening firelight burned as evidence of the painful division our country is experiencing. 

This is what I believe: Our only hope to bridge the divisions in our country today is the love of Jesus Christ. In the apostle Paul’s sweeping letter to the Romans, he doesn’t mince words when he describes our condition apart from Christ. We had nothing to impress God, no way to twist His arm to get Him to accept us. We were “utterly helpless.” “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners… our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies” (Romans 5:6,8,10, NLT).

If we can’t love those who disagree with us, it shows that we haven’t yet grasped the wonder that God loved us when we didn’t just disagree with Him—we were His utterly helpless enemies!

In the stress and anger of this moment in history, we need a life-transforming, soul-shaping experience of God’s amazing love. It’s more than saying we’re Christians, it’s more than going to church and it’s more than reading the Bible and praying. Those activities can deepen our connection to God, or they can inoculate us from the real thing.

When the love of God has penetrated our hearts, we’re secure enough that we’re not threatened by uncertainty and disagreements. We trust that we’re in the hands of a good and great Savior who always knows what’s best for our good and His glory. And because we’re convinced that Jesus paid the ultimate price to love us when we were so unlovable, we can genuinely love those who are very different from us.

Love is the starting point, the power source and the staying power of genuine unity.

 

This article was extracted from Issue 5 (Spring 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.

 

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