Red County, Blue Commonwealth
I shared with a ninth-grade teacher whose school district in southcentral Florida is 50% red and 50% blue that I was writing this column. “Hold up!” he said, flagging caution right up front. “A lot of people are still hot politically. It’s not time. You should chill.”
About chills, you can read about frosts and first snowfalls elsewhere. Yes, we should all seek to read and enjoy Creation through the Creator from many sources including columns, but two notable facts occurred locally and statewide as a result of this lingering presidential election that need to be considered theologically. First, our county continued its longstanding tradition of being red, and second, the Commonwealth turned blue. As a Susquehanna County native and an obvious Pennsylvanian, and, more importantly, as one who feels compelled by God through influential Christian leaders like the Apostle Paul (who really did want us to get along), I think these God-given differences are good. In fact, I think they’re very good. What unites us far outweighs what some see as division. There’s more to this baseline understanding, though. We who hold to biblical tenements need to wrap both our heads and our hearts around not only differences, but also, and perhaps more significantly, how and where we as reds and blues can unite, strengthen each other across divides, and move forward on solid not shaky ground.
First, God created us. That’s a bit simple and obvious, yes, but take this further. Our God who knows the number of hairs on your head also gave you passions, leanings, and, if you think about it, perspectives. You may claim that these perspectives are your own. After all, God gave you both a brain and freedom of thought (or freedom from Him), so you, dear brother and sister, can think what you want.
And oh, do you!
Follow me. If you subscribe to the understanding and the appreciation of a Master Planner of the Universe, this same Creator (and to secularists reading this I call this Master Planner of the Universe God), then consider something: we are all made to disagree in certain places of daily life. If we extend this, we understand that, by design, we were even intended to bump into each other from time to time.
Now the Apostle Paul (and hundreds of thousands of theologians following him) worked from this natural topography of disagreement and discord. One of the mega-themes extending throughout Paul’s New Testament contributions is unity. For instance, the church at Corinth was divided into various competing groups. Disorder prevailed. Hurts and hot messes happened far too often. To this, Paul writes, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Cor 1:10 NIV).”
The call to unity continues. The NLT version of Ephesians 4:3-6 reads, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one LORD, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
As we absorb this verse, we realize how our shortcomings persevere. This goal of making every effort to keep unity of the Spirit? Yikes! This seems to be just that! An effort! It may even feel as if it’s an impossible effort.
But it isn’t. Not really. Not when we take this one step at a time. One moment at a time.
If our goal is enlightenment not self-preservation of our own thoughts, then listening is not just necessary, it’s wonderful. I wrote about listening in a column earlier this month. Specifically, I wrote about listening as an act of love. You can find it on my website listed below.
Listen. Love. It’s not a disaster to have red and blue here and there, even though it seems it in the high school I mention here. Yes, now I am speaking to far more than a county within a commonwealth. I am speaking to life and learning. As you have built your faith from other people as God intended through like-mindedness and differences, continue to build because the following truth not only hurts, it saddens: too much too often has been torn down.
Build. To do so, love not with your agenda, but through God’s. Unity first. This unity is not self-generated, it’s Spirit-led and fed.