I am grieved by the hostility between Christians because of differences in their political affiliations. It isn’t limited to politics either. We see similar animosity between Christians from different racial groups and different socio-economic backgrounds. Even with Christians from the same cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, tensions exist because many will focus more on what makes them different rather than what unites them. This must grieve our heavenly Father. As a parent, I would be saddened if my kids treated each other with hostility irrespective of how justified their actions may seem to them. How much more Jesus who prayed that we, all who follow Him, maybe one as He and the Father are one. It’s time to stop the hostilities and grow up! No one who also belongs to Christ ought to be your enemy.
Divisions in the Church are nothing new. The division between Jew and Gentile was worse than anything we can imagine in our day. The racial, political and socio-economic tensions that exist today also existed in the time of the early Church. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians addresses these issues. He spends the first half of the letter detailing what God has already lavishly bestowed on us, while we were undeserving sinners destined for death [see Ephesians 1-3]. Having been shown such love, grace and mercy, Paul urges us to live our lives in a manner worthy of our salvation [see Ephesians 4-6]. We’re to do this with humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another in love. We’re also to make every effort to stay united in the Spirit and maintain the bond of peace between us [Ephesians 4:1-3].
It’s worth remembering that Christians don’t answer to Mammon, Caesar or any of the powers of this world, we answer to Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, the worldly labels shouldn’t apply to us, neither should the divisions they create. We’re no longer Jew and Gentile, Left and Right, Liberal, Moderate and Conservative, black and white, rich and poor or whatever labelswe place on ourselves. We are one Body – with Jesus Christ alone as our Head and Lord. We have one faith, and we have all been baptised into Jesus through the Holy Spirit with God as our Father [Ephesians 4:4-6].
This is why we must make every effort to preserve unity and peace among God’s people. Additionally, each of us is to play a part in building up the Body of Christ. We’re to dedicate ourselves to this mission until we all attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of God [Ephesians 4:7-13]. The word translated faith implies a conviction of the truth. This means that while at some point we’ll all believe the same things about God to the finest details, we currently don’t. Our backgrounds and experiences impact our beliefs and we must allow room for that in our dealings with one another.
As a wise sage once put it: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love”. While we may argue over what is essential and what isn’t, may I suggest that if agreeing on the fact that Jesus died for our sins and rose again is essential, agreeing on who we vote for can’t also be considered as essential? Christians may disagree on essentials and non-essentials, but we must demonstrate love in all situations because loving others is a divine imperative with no exceptions [1 John 4:8]. Consequently, if we love one another as God commands, then we will be humble, gentle and patient in our speech and conduct, especially towards those we disagree with. We’ll have a tolerance undergirded by love for fellow believers which will foster unity and preserve the bond of peace.
So, how are your efforts to foster unity and preserve the bond of peace with other Christians who don’t look like you, think like you, attend your church, share your political views and so on? Do you slander them with unwholesome speech or do your words build them up [Ephesians 4:29-32]? Do you alienate and treat people you disagree with as unbelievers do [Ephesians 4:17-19]? It’s a shame when God’s children fight over worldly things and bring God’s name into disrepute among non-Christians. Wouldn’t it be an amazing example for non-Christians to see Christians from diverse political, socio-economic and racial backgrounds relate to one another in love, despite their differences? This is God’s will for His children. Therefore, we must make every effort to stop behaving in ways antithetical to the counsel of God, and grow up i.e. become more like Jesus in speech and conduct, so that the Body of Christ might function as God intended [Ephesians 4:13-16].
In light of the directives detailed in Ephesians chapter 4, how do you treat fellow believers? What do your speech and conduct say about your level of maturity? How Christlike are you, especially in your dealings with people you disagree with? Do your actions foster unity and peace in the Body of Christ? I find that I’m prone to judging and condemning those I disagree with. I possess righteous indignation which manifests in my speech and conduct because I’m obviously right and they’re wrong. This happens when I see and judge others through the lens of my paradigms. But then, Jesus calls me to see others, as He sees them. He died for them too. If I truly believe He loves others just as much as He loves me, it ought to make a difference in how I treat them, otherwise, I’ve missed something.
In our increasingly divisive, intolerant world, can Christians offer an alternate narrative? Will we fulfil our mandate to love one another as a sign of our fellowship [John 13:35]? If non-Christians can’t see love among Christians, and if we treat each other as unbelievers do, are we truly following Jesus (John 14:15)?