Rev. Brian Lothridge

Jesus is the great unifier for all of us

Published Oct 20, 2018 at 4:00pm

Are you feeling weary of division at the moment?

I am.

It is hard to be on Facebook, watch the news, or laugh with my favorite late-night television hosts. I am tired of the us-or-them mentality, the childish name calling and disparaging of the other, and the selective and opportunistic outrage of politicians from both major political parties and the people who follow these parties.

I am disheartened when I see Christians trashing those with whom they disagree about politics and religion. I see good Church folk participating in these petty arguments. I find myself caught up in all of it as well, which is a big reason why I feel so weary.

I have given away my peace too many times when I hear about what some politician said or what a certain party is pushing through Congress. I have looked upon people who think differently than me with disdain. We aren’t meant to be this way.

We objectify people when we begin to look at the “other” with such disdain. We dehumanize people. It is difficult to love people with whom you disagree. It is easier to dislike and even hate objects. We too often choose the easier path. While the path is easy in the moment, it ultimately makes life more difficult for everyone.

We simply continue cycles of hatred and violence if we all divide into our little tribes and are at odds with other tribes. We harden our hearts against people we have made into objects and fail to let love mend the divides and transform our world.

This is not the way of Jesus. While it is true that Jesus wasn’t some hippy saying, “Why can’t we all just love one another, man?” Jesus was the one who non-violently overcame the world. Jesus was the one who, even as he was dying on a cross, said of all those responsible for his death, “Forgive them, Father, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Jesus broke down walls, transformed hearts with love, and constantly opened up the circle of insiders to those on the outside until everyone on the outside was invited into the circle.

Jesus taught a small group of followers to do the same. That circle was made up of a variety of people including two people who couldn’t be more opposite when it came to politics. Matthew 10 lists the 12 apostles, which includes Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. These two mixed together like oil and water that are still contained in separate bottles. Yet, Jesus was the great unifier.

Matthew was a Jew who collected taxes for the Roman Empire. Rome had taken over Israel and was the occupying force. They levied oppressive taxes and tax collectors often grabbed a little more to line their own pockets.

This was seen as treasonous to someone like Simon. The Zealots wanted to overthrow Rome by using any force necessary. The ends justified the means in their minds, so violence was not out of the question. Why on earth would Jesus call these two people to walk with him, knowing that they would have despised each other?

Perhaps this is the point. In Jesus, old allegiances fall away. Matthew was not a tax collector in Jesus. Simon was not a Zealot in Jesus. They were disciples and eventually teachers of a great movement based on the teaching and authority Jesus gave to them and the other disciples. They walked with one another, learned with one another, lived with one another, and did ministry with one another. They were part of a family. Jesus united them in the love of God.

This serves as a model for the church. The church isn’t homogenous. Jesus is the great unifier for all of us. In Jesus, we are Christians before we are Americans, Republicans, Democrats, United Methodists, Catholics, gay, straight, rich or poor, etc.

The church should be a place where a diverse people seek to follow Jesus together. We should seek to see one another through the eyes of Christ and love one another with the eyes of Christ.

The world chooses division. Followers of Jesus choose love. Ours is not the easy path. However, the path of love is what allows us to see the humanity in each person. May the love of Christ allow us to see one another as a member of the family and not an object of our scorn. In this way we can transform the world. Grace and peace, my friends.