By James Pence
We are divided. Politics divide us. Religion divides us. You name it, and it seems to divide us.
The divisions that now shape our country’s national dialogue go further back than Trump or Obama, way back before Left Wing and Right Wing or Red states and Blue states. What is playing out in the realms of politics is just a symptom of a greater problem.
We live in a time when the individual and their needs are greater than the common good.
I heard a preacher use an illustration that stuck with me over the years. He said we use to have “People” magazine, then “Us,” then “We,” and followed by “Self.” As the focus has narrowed we have a population that falsely believes what is good for me is what is good for everyone else.
It should disturb us because our Lord said, “A kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and a house divided against itself cannot stand,” Matthew 12:25.
More than 150 years ago President Lincoln quoted from that Scripture in one of his inaugural addresses as the nation was ripping apart at the seams during Civil War. We don’t fight each other with rifle and bayonet today, but our discourse is often just as toxic and fuels the fires of division.
Our words reveal our prejudices and point to the hate we harbor deep within us. We once again must find a way to work for the common good in our families, homes, schools, churches and nation.
It was said of President Lyndon Johnson that when he would discuss issues that involved opposing viewpoints he would say, “Come now let us reason together,” quoting from Isaiah 1:18.
If people do not see reasoning, compromising and tolerant people, they will not be drawn to the church doors or the ballot boxes. People have lost faith in the very institutions that once promoted the public welfare and common good of humanity.
Churches, schools politicians and even the family are all viewed with suspicion and distrust when they were once seen as bastions of hope and the very fiber that made our society what it was.
In my own life, I have been on the critical side of leaders and institutions far too often, assuming the worst before all the facts had been gathered. What I should be doing is to be on my knees praying for their godly wisdom and guidance.
We need a restoration of common sense, civility, decency and kindness.
I am a member of the local Martinsville/Henry County Ministerial Association. We have pastors from all different ethnic backgrounds, genders and viewpoints. In our roster we can count no less than 290-some churches in the county. Rarely do you see these churches having joint services or even thinking of combining for the survival and advancement of their smaller memberships.
Yet, you do hear of many splits and the starting of hew churches. This may offend some, but it is my belief Henry County does not need another church anywhere. We need the unity of the churches that do exist to fulfill the Great Commission regardless of who gets the glory.
If we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, God will get all the glory anyway. If we can agree that Jesus is Lord and sinners are lost and doomed to eternal destruction without him in their lives, then that is a good common ground upon which to build.
Instead we have some who proclaim the same Jesus as Lord but act as if their church, their way to worship is going to be the only church that makes it to Heaven.
Remember, “a house, (a church), divided against itself cannot stand.” How much better it would be to “come, let us reason together” over the issues we can agree on and let that be our strength.
As with the nation, there is likely more that unites us rather than dividing us further.
James Pence is minister of Pleasant Grove Christian Church of Martinsville.