Tag Archives: otherize

Our Foolish Fragile Fences

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:13-14

dividing fence

We all build fences. It is an essential part of the human condition. We categorize and re-categorize ourselves and others over and over again in order to protect our fragile egos and in order to minimize any complex thinking required to really see others. We are quick to identify differences which separate us and we “otherize” anyone we do not agree with or do not fully understand. We build fences. And we do this within the church.

Apparently, the single most effective tool for breaking down fences between people or groups of people is to identify a bigger, more important dividing line. Having found that more significant division, most of the smaller ones suddenly seem less important and may dissolve altogether. You have experienced this.

Take, for example, the deep, deep political divide the United States was experiencing after the 2000 Presidential election…the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Does the term “hanging chad” ring a bell? Remember how very deeply this country was split right down the middle? We had almost a full year of political fights over those election results. But then, on September 11 of the following year, the greatest catastrophe this country has ever known was inflicted upon us. Suddenly, those deep, deep dividing lines seemed unimportant, because now there was a much bigger, more important dividing line…one that ran between this country and its terrorist foes. This country has never been more “unified” than in the days and weeks immediately following that event. Democrats and Republicans became …

Unity and Uniformity…Two Very Different Things

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Biblical unity is not about agreeing with each other all the time.  In fact, the more I read about the New Testament church in Paul’s letters, the more I see that disagreement played a fairly significant role in the early church and I believe it still does today.  There has always been disagreement in the church.  As long as we “see as in a mirror, dimly”, there will be disagreement in the church.  That disagreement grows us, stretches us, humbles us, and keeps us accountable.  It is a positive thing.  It is not something to be feared.

In that sense, the diversity in the church may well be one of our true strengths.  Our ability (or inability) to embrace and manage that diversity will either grow us and move us forward or it will end us (locally, I mean, not globally…not even the gates of hell will prevail against the church globally).  Biblical unity assumes there will be disagreement and insists that we find healthy ways of processing it.  It assumes you and I are living in relationships where your understanding of God actually informs, shapes, and (gulp!) changes my understanding of God.  We live so as to be intentionally influenced by one another, especially by our differences.

Yes, scripture calls us to be “like-minded” and yes, there is a place for doctrinal purity and truth and a clear sense of right and wrong.  Unity doesn’t compromise the truth.  It just calls us to a level of humility in our grasp of truth, a healthy understanding of what it means to “see as in a mirror, dimly”.

But despite the value of doctrinal purity and truth, in talking about the church, …