‘If a house is divided itself, it cannot stand’.’ These words of Jesus (Mark 3:25) might as well be speaking to most western countries right now. Our nations are divided along political, social, racial and even religious lines. But can Christians help heal a divided nation?
I believe the way Christians do it, can be an example for the whole country. Here’s how.
Healing division means understanding the cause.
Our politics are sick. It’s become divisive and shallow.
To heal division in a nation we need to understand what’s really causing it and where the roots of the problem lie.
One, I believe, stems from the decline in how politicians talk to each other. Civility has gone out the window. Pettiness and name calling, finger pointing and name blaming are boringly regular. And we buy into it because we also like to see our political opponents slammed.
There is also little respect for difference of opinion or balanced viewpoints. We’re pushed to belong to one side or the other or to remain indifferent.
This division is hardened by the media who feed its audience a steady diet of scandal and outrage. It’s a vicious circle. Especially when you have the insatiable demands of 24-hour rolling news and an all-pervasive social media.
One comment or rumour can spread to millions of people in minutes. It’s never been more difficult to be a public figure than it is today.
This is a big part of the problem. Now to work out a change for the better.
Firstly, as Christians, we don’t partake in political extremes or get dragged into the tribalism of the ‘culture wars’. That’s a no win. We must be temperate in speech (especially on social media) while still speaking the truth when something’s clearly wrong. Even if that’s at times discomforting.
That’s always been the approach of the Hebrew prophets and of Jesus himself.
But there are other steps we must take.
Healing division means understanding different people.
We all have a tendency (for some a compulsion) to think we know more than we do and so can’t wait to ‘share’ our opinion. Bloggers, like myself, thrive on it.
So when you take a position on an issue, you will inevitably come up with an opposing view. My advice to handle it? Get personal.
Not rude, but personal. Understand someone with a different view as a unique individual like you with their own experiences, values and emotions. By doing so you develop empathy, which by the way is often lacking in the heat of division.
When you can connect with someone from a different viewpoint, the possibility opens up for a calm exchange of ideas and opinions. Then something significant can happen, it’s called ‘mutual understanding’.
As a result, someone’s opinion can completely change. That’s because in taking a different view, you haven’t tried to browbeat or humiliate someone. People always respond better if they feel listened to and understood, even if not agreed with. That’s the essence of dialogue after all.
Healing division can be accomplished through prayer.
When the world is going crazy and out of control can God really intervene to heal division?
We simply don’t know how scenarios can be changed with prayer. Though I know and trust in God that they can be. God is in control of the small as much as the big.
There’s also a side benefit to prayer (and it is just that); we begin to release a burden.
‘Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ Matt 11:28.
If, like me, you feel the burden of the way your country or neighbourhood is, hand it over to God. It may be hard but it will be freeing.
Conflict is inevitable, a division isn’t.
Here’s the difficult thing. Sometimes conflict is inevitable, especially if the issue is a matter of truth and justice or even loyalty. Jesus himself said that he ‘didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword.’ Matt 10:34.
This passage is clearly referring to how being a disciple of his may cause division and strife among family and friends. This has nothing to do with war or violence (see also Jesus’ rebuke of Peter’s attempt to fight Matt 26:52).
Nor has it do with any division caused by political affiliation. Modern Conservatives have no more claim to the person of Jesus than modern Liberals (however you choose to use those labels). To do so is idolatrous and a complete misappropriation of scripture.
Now what to do, if a conflict is inevitable and division isn’t?
We must do something to heal division.
Often divisions bring out extremes and this is what we should be ready to confront.
The mood right now is angry. We can just sit by and passively watch while hatred, division and misunderstanding are harming our nation.
Or we can watch, pray, understand and speak out, acknowledging differences of course, while opposing extremes.
We walk forward in the way of faith, trusting God to find the best way to bring peace.
No way, but whoever said it would be?
Christians can heal a divided nation. It’s whether we do, that is the real question.
Because God is asking. Now we must stand up and answer it.
Jeremy – Not Only Sundays (About Us).
If you’d like to discover your unique life calling, download my free e-guide here.