Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Twas On That Night"1 (Lyrics)
"Left" versus "right" — these two ideological sides are splitting apart our world with increasing intensity. I find this unsettling. Perhaps it's because there's no actual midpoint, no fixed place where a plumb line of truth can rest and everyone can relax.
That got me thinking about the various divides described in Scripture, particularly one kind of divide: the "us" versus "them" divide. The "us" side is the justified, righteous side; the "them" side is the guilty, wrong side. Think about that. Is that not how we instinctively categorize people in our minds? Who puts themselves on the unrighteous side?
Yet, Jesus would dispute that. He said, "For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:13b NIV)
Jesus had a knack for using parables and other tools to dislodge His listeners from their self-righteous positions. For us, too, through His Spirit, we find ourselves on the "other" side, among those "guilty sinners". It's humbling to discover that we're no different; together, we need mercy. This is the very point where the plumb line finally comes to rest.
Romans 3:22b-24 – There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)
This text is found after Paul's summary of two irreconcilable sides: the Gentile side (Romans 1) and the Jewish side (Romans 2) — the uncircumcised and the circumcised — the culturally sensitized and the religiously sensitized. Remember, the Church was birthed in the midst of this great divide. At that time, these two sides were at odds with each other. How did Paul handle it?
Paul didn't take sides. Instead, he changed the direction of the divide from horizontal to vertical. The great divide, he claimed, was between God and sinner. The cure was the same for all: reconciliation through Christ.
Human divides will continue to trouble us, alienate us, and even threaten our lives. Yet our concern should not be primarily with these lesser horizontal divides, but with the great vertical divide — and God's solution:
2 Corinthians 5:16-19 – So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (NIV 2011)
What encouraging news! Here's our true focus, purpose, and identity. How others divide us on the horizontal plane is less important than this high calling on the vertical plane, as ministers of God's merciful grace. May we never be distracted from this God-given task.
Prayer: O Lord, unhinge us from our restless obsession over horizontal divides. May we look up with a fervent passion for spiritual reconciliation, and the fruit thereof: peace and unity. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.