Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Ezekiel 43:1-12, Hebrews 9:1-14, Luke 11:14-23
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
We hear that message from the time we are children, yet many adults don’t seem to get it. We divide ourselves into polarized tribes until what’s wrong and what’s right surrender to what’s won and what’s lost.
“My liberal candidate is corrupt? Well what about this conservative corruption over here?”
“My orthodox church acted hypocritically? Well your progressive church is intolerant of my beliefs!”
When our tribe sins, we rationalize away exactly the behavior we condemn our opponents for. An idea we loved when our side recommended it becomes toxic if the other side does. When Jesus cast out demons, the Pharisees accused him of doing it in the name of Beelzebub. Jesus countered by asking them in whose name they cast out demons. Too often we want “them” to lose more than we want to do what’s right. That’s just the way things are.
Or is it?
Let’s not be fooled into thinking there’s any such thing as a “typical” liberal or conservative, politically or religiously. Whichever camp you fall into (if you do), you know the tribe is not in lockstep. Internal divisions can be as spiteful as external ones. We allow the most extreme and loudest members of the “other” to define them, but dismiss our own extremists as aberrations. The truth is, people of good faith and intent can disagree on any number of issues but still find common ground and common good … as long as they remain one body.
Jesus said “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house.” It seems the first step to removing divisions is not to label other people, but maybe it’s to stop labeling ourselves. Once we embrace a label, we diminish critical thinking about our tribe and adopt antagonism toward the “other.” No label – even “Christian” – is definitive. We are limbs of the same Body. We can make slow, clumsy progress trying to force both legs to jump together, or we can stride steadily forward trusting both legs are working in opposition to get to the same place.
Comfort: The only label you need is Child of God.
Challenge: When you talk about or with someone you disagree with, try avoiding blanket words like conservative, liberal, etc. and describe the specific attitude or behavior you oppose.
Prayer: God, help us to remember we are one Body in Christ. Amen.
Discussion: What labels for people have you found to be especially harmful?
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