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2 UnderSTAND

"You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?"- I Corinthians 3:3

It seems at every age level and in every arena of life we have this strong need to be heard, for things to be fair, and to get our way. And often in order for this to happen we end up in competition and conflict with one another. We strive against and step over one another in order to come out on top. It happens all of the time...from siblings arguing over whether they can collect money at free parking while playing Monopoly; to the local gymnasium where two teams argue about what score total was originally agreed upon in order to win the basketball game (often it is the losing team that wants to change the rules); to the entire office vying for vacation time or an advantageous work schedule based on seniority. In these cases the stakes are minimal as it may only create a need for the kids to have a "timeout" from playing together; it may add more time to get the basketball game over with; and it may mean someone has to work the night shift and wait until the end of summer to get their two weeks off.

However, the stakes we are seeing in our world are much higher as there seems to be a growing tension, mistrust, and animosity that has led to the painful presence of racism, judgment, division, and even bloodshed. Even this week we have seen the tension platformed at the Republic Convention in Cleveland as many rally while others protest. As we prayed for our nation a few weeks ago and as Pastor Joanie shared a poignant message this past Sunday on the source of our peace in turbulent times, we recognize that we need to see a humility, unity, reconciliation, and healing come to our land. The division, hate, and violence stain seems to escalate and accumulate with each questionable police action, each protest demanding justice, and each wicked shooting that takes place. If there was ever a time for the Church of Jesus to wake up, rise, pray, and model forgiveness, grace, and unity, today is that day!

As I write this article on such a weighty topic, I think one of the key steps in this process is to have a better UNDERSTANDING of one another. When we take the time to view people beyond our own experience and our own expectation of who they should be and what they should do, we tend to make room in our heart to be more gracious, compassionate, and patient with others. This does not mean we agree with or accept every view and behavior, but we can understand the "why" and the whole equation, rather than just seeing the outcome/finished product and placing a label on people: "Loser"; "Idiot"; "Worthless"; "Ignorant"; "Shallow"; etc... One of the things that I love about Jesus' message and ministry is that He was ever teaching the people to change their views about others. He interacted with sinners, touched lepers, pardoned sinners, and defined the blind, Gentiles, and Samaritans in a far different light than the standard set by the religious leaders. I love what the Apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 5:16-17, "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in the same way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

As I look at the great divide in our nation, my prayer is that people would not be so quick to judge, so proud that their views are superior to others, and so unwilling to give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, most of us have no way of knowing what it is like to be labeled, offended, and treated poorly due to the color of our skin or the origin of our birth. By the same token, most people who are up in arms over the police actions have no way of comprehending what it is like to have a job where each day with every response call or traffic stop there is a chance of losing your life. In my view we need more than accountability and justice, we need to remove the walls that have kept us apart and draw together for a work that promotes value, sacrifice, and the common good. The heartbeat of Paul in his letters to the church are a mirror of God's heartbeat for all people. In Philippians 2:2 the Apostle Paul writes, "Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, and being one in spirit and of one mind."

Satan would love for this divide to get wider, for the debates to get nastier, and for the deeds of men to get deadlier. Rather than throwing our hat into the ring with personal opinion on these topic, let us throw our hands in the air up to heaven in prayer, humility, and surrender. May the church rise up in this hour to be a beacon of hope, a voice of reason, and a model of love that helps people through the hate and hurt that has hardened so many hearts and left a dark cloud over our nation. II Chronicles 7:14 is still a promise that can be performed by the One who is perfect in every way, "If My people who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

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