What can a Presidential debate teach us about unity in the Church?
Last night kicked off the presidential debate mania with a 90 minute showdown between the two candidates vying for our votes. In less than 34 days, millions of Americans will cast their vote for who they believe can fix the issues plaguing our country. On the discussion docket were: COVID-19, healthcare, jobs, the economy, the military, and much more (all things we the voters should be well-informed of as we consider who to elect as our next President).
I am no debate expert, but I believe the way that a debate is supposed to work is that the two debating parties meet over an issue and each deliver a clear and concise statement on their stance/response/platform. After each party has delivered their clear and concise response to the topic at hand, the floor is open for moderated debate in which the debating parties use logic, statistics, previous experience, or the logical inconsistencies of the other party to prove why their response to the issue at hand is the appropriate one. This is not what happened last night...
Based off last nights' debate, I couldn't honestly tell you where either party stands on a single one of the issues brought up by the moderator. If there were any platform-specific statements made, they were so shrouded in insults or argumentative language that they were hardly recognizable. Nothing on either side was clear, concise, or dependent on logical consistency and reasoning, leaving me with the distinct feeling that neither party was as concerned with informing me (the voter) as they were inflicting maximum damage on one another (and at times the moderator). We did not get a skillfully played game of chess where each opponent maneuvers logic to their benefit. We got a gladiator match with insults and bickering acting as swords and spears.
What can this teach us about unity in the Church?
Sadly, the debate last night is an accurate reflection of the state of our country right now. People are so polarized into positions of 'right' and 'wrong' that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has become politicized debate. Battle lines have been drawn up all over the place over the simplest of issues and we have become divided as a nation.
Where this becomes a huge issue is when this mentality makes its way into the church.
This polarized climate is in direct opposition to Jesus' high priestly prayer for His disciples (and us) in John 17:22-23 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."
We are supposed to have a unity that is completely different than that of the world around us and it is through this radically countercultural unity that we are identified as followers of Jesus.
As you look around the church today, would you say that is the image we portray? An image of unity that is so countercultural that the only explanation is Christ living in us? Or do we see the same attitudes and actions within the church that we saw in the debate last night?
It is as we grow in sanctification that we also grow in unity with others who are also being transformed by power of the Gospel. As we follow Jesus we are unified around a common command to love one another and a common goal in the Great Commission.
This unification around a common goal is what was missing in the presidential debate last night. If both parties were more worried about communicating the good they want to do for the people who will vote for them than they were in fighting one another, we would have all walked away from the debate more informed and ready to make the best decision possible come election day. Debate is good and healthy. Debate in the church can be great and lead to all sorts of amazing things if it is undergirded by a bond of trust and a commitment to love and unity above all.
We have to look different. We have to have unity if we are going to minister effectively in our current climate. While the stakes are extremely high, the opportunity to stand out amongst our culture because of our unity is even higher.
In what ways do you see the spirit of polarization and division in your own heart?
We can usually find these tendencies around areas that we are most passionate about. What are the areas/issues you are prone to speak negatively about others, be snarky or condescending, or become aggressive and vocal. At the end of the day, if your responses are not given in love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, and in an attempt to promote unity within the church...it is wrong...period!
Does this ever come out on social media or in conversation with people who you know agree with you?
Sometimes it can be hard to see the spirit of division and polarization that exists within us (we can't see the forest through the trees). A good place for us to look is in what we put out there on social media or in how we converse with those people we know will agree with us. Social media gives us the time to carefully craft the perfect response to something and provides enough distance that we feel we can get away with a divisive comment we know we would never make in person. Likewise, we will more readily feed the monster of division within us when we are around people we know agree with us. I think it is a good idea to run every conversation we have with someone who agrees with us through the lens of unity asking: 'Does this conversation feed a spirit of unity, love, and compassion for others who do not think like me or does is further polarize me?" It does not matter if you are right about a subject or not...division within the body of Christ is a serious issue that must be dealt with within our hearts and the Gospel of Jesus is the only power strong enough to deal with it.