Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Us Versus Them

by Steve Levering
Liberal. Conservative. Feminist. Elitist. Pro-Life. Pro-Choice. Democrat. Evangelical. Redneck. Muslim. Gay. Republican. We’re in the middle of an election cycle, and if you’ve watched TV or read any magazines or newspapers over the past few weeks, you’ve seen or heard these words used in speeches, editorials, and news coverage.

Politicians and pundits throw these terms around constantly during elections, because they know that it gets people riled up and passionate. We’ve seen it happen many times before, especially at the big national conventions. The speaker casually mentions someone’s name, says one of these terms, and that pretty much seals it for the fans of the speaker. If it’s a term the audience finds favorable, then that person is okay. But if it’s an unfavorable term, that person automatically becomes the enemy.

It’s terribly easy to get into an “us versus them” mentality. It only takes a little goading from people we respect or the friends and family around us. And after we take on this feeling of “us versus them,” it’s easy to think of “them” as unfeeling non-humans. We’ve categorized them as “not us” so they are bad.

But the reality is that there is no “us versus them.” We are all just people, human beings created by God. Liberals, Conservatives, Believers, Non-Believers, it doesn’t matter! God created all of us. And here’s the kicker: We’re all God’s Children, and he loves us all the same. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Even though we may disagree with others, we are still commanded to love them. Romans 13:8 reads, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” (NIV). Several times through the New Testament, we are told to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 19:19, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31-33, among others…)

Growing up in the Southern Baptist church, I used to hear a saying, and I’ve forgotten exactly how it goes, but it’s something along the lines of: Whatever the preacher shouts loudest about, that’s what the preacher is struggling with in his life. So why am I writing about this? This is one of my big struggles.

It’s easy to label someone. You feel like you know what that person is about, and whether or not you’ll be disappointed or enthused by whatever they have to say. And while it is occasionally a good way of avoiding conflict, you end up missing out on the real person – the complex human being created by God. Once you’ve labeled someone, you’re just seeing a caricature – a flat 2-d version, instead of a vibrant human being.

Not long after I started to write this, I went to TCBC, and there was a brief video of quotations during the service. And as usual, someone has written about this far more eloquently than I. Here’s the quote:

“If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another,
if I can in any way slight another in conversation or even in thought,
then I know nothing of Calvary Love.

“If I can write an unkind letter,
speak an unkind word,
think an unkind thought without grief and shame,
then I know nothing of Calvary Love.”
-Amy Carmichael

Lord Jesus, please help me not to get caught up in the viciousness of this election cycle, and help me to remember the human beings involved, rather than focusing on labels. Please help me show your love to everyone around me, and not just to the people I agree with politically and ideologically. Help me love.

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