Unity vs. Uniformity

I recently heard someone saying that America is breaking up into factions and I thought it was an interesting word choice. A faction is “a small, organized dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics.” I told Erich that I felt like there are even factions within factions. There are factions within the Republican party, as well as within the church. How crazy is that?! Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17:21 was, “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus desired unity, not division. But what does that look like? Our pastor here in Montana recently talked about the political tension and said that we should be able to disagree wholeheartedly and still love each other unconditionally. I love that! I I feel like a lot of Christians are confusing unity with uniformity, and that is one area where I think we are falling short, as Americans and as believers. To be united is to be joined together for a common purpose. Uniformity, on the other hand, is defined as remaining the same, in all cases and at all times.

1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Not the same part. We all function different, we all play different roles, and yeah, we all have different perspectives of the world. The feet aren’t going to see the world the same as the head does. I know that sounds silly, but there’s something there.

Erich and I have many friends with whom we differ on doctrine, sometimes in pretty big ways. But guess what? We are still friends. Most Christians have enough grace to acknowledge the difference of opinion and still enjoy being brothers and sisters in Christ. So, why is it so different in politics? I’ve had many animated conversations about reformed theology and how I think it affects our view of God, but I have always walked away still respecting the other person, and still feeling respected by them. Not the same with politics. What’s happening?!

I think to some degree, we have become too easily offended. As far as I can tell, being offended is a choice. It is feeling “resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.” I mean, if someone tells me I look tired, I can choose to be offended, or I can laugh to myself and say, “Yeah, I probably do.” I know people who believe masks work and that we should all wear them and obey all the mandates and restrictions without question. That doesn’t offend me. I disagree wholeheartedly, but I respect their right to have their own opinion. However, if I voice my opinion on masks or lockdowns, so many people take offense, as well as the opportunity to correct my misguided thinking. Why does it offend anyone if I don’t think masks work? I’m still wearing one. Even the CDC has studies basically proving they don’t really work, are we “following the science” or not? But I digress. I have offended so many people this year. I disagreed with the lockdowns and the masks, but I complied. I disagree with white privilege and critical race theory (and won’t comply). I have no doubt that the election was stolen, and I have many doubts about allowing a corrupt party, who seeks to destroy our republic as we know it, to take power. But why should any of that offend anyone else? Opinions are based on our own knowledge, or lack of knowledge, on any given subject and colored by our own personal experience and perspective.

I saw a meme the other day that said something to the effect of, “Seeing something on facebook that you disagree with, and feeling obligated to comment, is like seeing dog poop and choosing to step in it instead of going around it.” It made me laugh. But, keep in mind, disagreeing with someone, doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong. (Insert shocked emoji here). And that is the second area where I think believers are falling short. Humility. None of us have it all figured out. The sooner we can convince ourselves that we are very likely wrong, on more than one front, the sooner we can approach conversations with an open mind and possibly even grow in our knowledge and in our ability to disagree wholeheartedly while loving unconditionally. Scary thought: if we do seek uniformity, but have it wrong… where does that road lead us? Real unity allows for difference of thought, difference of perspective, and even different methodology, all while pursuing the same purpose and having the same spirit.

Some of you might argue that, if I know that what I’m saying might offend someone, I shouldn’t say it. But if we followed that model, no one would be able to say anything. And some things need saying. What the world needs from the church right now, is not silence. They don’t need uniformity.

Even if every Christian was saying the same thing, in complete uniformity, it wouldn’t have the same effect on the world as the church united, regardless of differing opinions.

Does that make sense? Imagine the impact we could have, if our “factions” could unite for the common goal of furthering the Kingdom? One faction might say, “This world is not my home, I’m a part of His Kingdom, not this one… Church and politics don’t go together. We are just going to trust God.” The other might say, “But our job is to bring His Kingdom to earth and we feel like leaving politics (especially in a country founded on faith) to unbelievers is irresponsible. We believe we have a role to play.” These viewpoints aren’t actually on completely opposite sides of the spectrum. It wouldn’t be hard for them to unite. Instead, we are arguing about every little issue. You might say Trump should concede, I might say “NEVER!” but we can both bow our heads and pray together for the future of our country and for the future president, whoever they might be. Half of the church might be ok with the lockdowns and believe compliance is the only option. The other half might be ready for some civil disobedience. That doesn’t mean we can’t work together to take care of those in our community who are struggling to get by. It doesn’t mean we can’t all try to find a path towards freedom that we can all feel good about walking down. We can actually have passivists and warriors on the same side because we don’t, and can’t, all play the same role. We shouldn’t lose respect for someone because their “opinions” don’t align perfectly with ours, or because they feel called to play a different role than us.

Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in uniformity!” Just kidding, “dwell in unity!”

2020 was the perfect opportunity to display God’s love, grace, and truth to the world through unity. We kind of blew it. I know I didn’t walk my path perfectly this year. But redemption is an amazing thing and God can still redeem all our shortcomings. Can we set aside our factions (intentional or not) and have enough love and respect for each other, knowing that we are all after one thing, His Kingdom on earth, to join forces and unite… so that the world may believe…?

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