Humans love to create groups, categories and divisions. How many times have you heard someone say, “there are only 2 kinds of people…” Some of these divisions are harmless and fun, but some of them have the long term impact of dividing us into tribes to which we end up pledging our loyalty, whether intentionally or not. Tribalism puts hard dividing lines in place that become ever more difficult to cross.
The more time we spend with our “tribe”, whether in person or virtually, the more we see the world with an us versus them mentality. It also contributes to the assignment of values to the group, which most likely only exist in the hearts and minds of a few in that group. One person on the outside of our tribe does something that shows bias or ignorance, so we apply that bias or lack of intelligence to everyone in that group.
At the darker end of the scale, this is how problems like racism and prejudice are fostered. Leaders who desire to see this continue feed their followers only one kind of information. The “others” are always bad, biased or ignorant. The irony is they do more to foster bias than anyone else.
When we look at the world today, we can see this type of behavior everywhere. Information sources relish in delivering bad news, especially about those who they have some bias against. They act to throw gasoline on every fire they see. There is no caution and if something confirms their bias, it is automatically added to their tribe’s diatribe. Over time, there is a mythology that is built up about the characteristics of one group over another.
Most likely, even as you have read this the temptation has been for you to think about the “other” tribe, not your own. “Sure, they are like that. They are biased. Those people will believe anything.” This is exactly the problem. Most of “them” are not like that. Most of them are not biased, but your own mythology has been built up to think the worst.
Whether you are a Christian or not you owe it to yourself and your community to stop this kind of thinking. There are those whose actions deserve to be judged, but to apply that judgement to everyone who aligns themselves with any action or movement is not helpful for allowing society to continue to function. If you are a Christian, then you should be concerned with your allegiance to only one tribe, the Body of Christ.
“Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”Ephesians 2:16 (NLT)
The two groups Paul is talking about were as divided as could be possible. One had all the power and regularly used it against the other. The other group had the right “religion” and according to that religion everyone else wasn’t just wrong, they were also unclean. These two groups that could not be brought together by any means were reconciled by the death of Christ.
“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”Ephesians 3:6 (NLT)
They were no longer primarily a part of their previous groups or tribes, instead they were now a part of one family. They were now adopted children in a new family. Previous ethnic, political and relgious differences were now insignificant under Christ. Paul acknowledges the hostility that existed, but it was now put to death. Today, we see lots of hostility between groups, but no hostility should exist between Christians, it has been put to death. Instead, Paul gave the following instructions:
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”Ephesians 4:2-3 (NLT)
As Paul says here, we all have faults. No one is perfect, but in spite of that we can find unity in the Spirit. We can bind ourselves together in peace. The Church in Ephesus was a mess. They had people from different backgrounds of ethnicity, culture and religion. They had no chance to walk together in unity apart from Christ. Paul knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he was calling them to a path. A path that had a very specific destination in mind, spiritual maturity.
“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”Ephesians 4:13-15 (NLT)
Can you see how these verses might apply to our discussion above. New teaching is sometimes doctrine, and sometimes it is a simply the news of the day or a post on social media. If our hope is grounded in Christ and His identity, then we are able to weather the storm around us and continue to be bound together in unity with the Body of Christ. This allows us to see our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they have some temporary passing allegiance to a particular political party or movement or position of the day that is different than ours or not. Our lasting allegiance is to our only hope for this world and for eternity, salvation in Jesus. He is what binds us together.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”Ephesians 4:32
Throughout Ephesians Paul gives helpful encouragements to a divided people. He lays out a different path and vision for a better way. We put our hostility to death every day, by first remembering how God’s hostility and judgement were satisfied through the death of Christ. We are now, as believers, forgiven in Christ. We can walk together as parts of one Body, children of one family, showing the tenderness towards one another that only God can provide along the way.