Now the whole earth had one language and the same words… Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Genesis 11:1, 4-6
There is something utterly intoxicating about banding together with others and overcoming obstacles as a team to achieve something significant. Perhaps you have experienced it. If you have ever been on a team during a championship season, or a part of a military division who survived under daunting circumstances, or shared some life-changing scenario with a group, you know the feeling. I felt it having survived the rigors of law school with my classmates. There is this overwhelming sense of everyone having pulled together and accomplished something bigger than any of us thought possible. Working together, everyone pulling their weight, fighting through struggles, and winning. It’s a good feeling…one which often binds a group together for life.
We have a lot of names for it: team chemistry, “family”, camaraderie, esprit de corp. But no matter what you call it, it is a good thing…a powerful thing. There have been times when we felt it as a country here in the U.S. The last time was probably just after 9-11, when we had identified a common enemy and we banded together as a country, building (short lived) bridges across …
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
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 …
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12
Imagine being locked in a dark room with a bunch of other people with whom you must work together to find a way out. There are obstacles and opportunities throughout the room, but they are difficult to see. You truly must rely on each other to feel your way through the room, exploring every corner and piecing together the information accumulated by the group. In such a scenario, your chances of figuring it out all by yourself without anyone else’s help are slim to none. But together, it can be done.
That is very much like discerning the will of God together as a church body. For now, when it comes to seeing Spiritual truths, we all see as through a glass dimly. We are never so arrogant as when we proudly proclaim to the world that we have seen the will of God all by ourselves, and that we clearly understand it better than anyone else. In this age of the church, that does not seem to be God’s desire. Rather, He apparently intends that we would learn to come to Him together, seeking His truths together, and gently massaging those truths into one another.
But that process can be truly frustrating, especially in times of conflict. Working with a conflicted congregation, I often wonder why God doesn’t just make an appearance in their worship service one Sunday morning and tell them exactly what He is thinking about them and what He wants them to do. Frankly, it would be a lot easier for them –if not a little …