Do you recall the old song by Buffalo Springfield – There’s Something Happening Here? Remember the lyrics?
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Buffalo Springfield - Somethings Happening Here Lyrics | MetroLyrics
Perhaps that song was a bit prophetic.
The world – or at least the US - has become a polarized realization of that song. Right and wrong have become second fiddle (or perhaps third or fourth fiddle) to me and mine. We are far more likely to oppose someone simply because of how they associate themselves rather than for what they actually say or do. We have put ourselves into buckets of civil and political association and if you are not a part of my group, then you are an outsider to be opposed – if not completely crushed. We are either black or white or Hispanic or native or Asian or something else. We are either straight or gay or transgender or something else. We are either Democrat or Republic or something else. We are either liberal or conservative or something else. How sad it is that I actually have to say “or something else”? Our polarized and segmented ethnic, political, and self-identified associations have become so important that we get offended if we are somehow excluded. We expect offense when it was never intended. We look for offense where it doesn’t exist. In fact, it is because of this that 2015 has been labeled the year of being offended – or rather (if I were to be more politically correct) – the year of political correctness. We cannot even say “male or female” anymore and it causes a political and civil uproar when someone stands up and says “no, you cannot take your male body parts into a public restroom where my little girl is.” Political correctness has been taken to such an extreme absurdity that those who have been caught up in it cannot even see their own folly. In fact, they think it is enlightened and right for such extreme sensitivity to exist. Lest we forget – in the medical world, when a part of the body is extremely sensitive, it is a sign that something is not quite right.
The term “American” has no meaning any more – and “yes” I realize that the very word, American, is offensive to Canadians, Mexicans, or people from South America. That, however, is my point. Society cannot stand when it is so divided. It is not just a proverb or motto to say “United we stand, divided we fall” – it is truth that goes back as far as Aesop's fable of the bundle of sticks - and it has been part of what has made America strong since the Revolutionary War. However, today we cannot even say that it is truth because doing so would be stating an absolute, which is a sign of intolerance. There was a time in which the “United” States understood the meaning of the term collectivism. We understood the importance of community and the strength of unity. However, the ideals of individualism have so taken root in our society that they have been taken to their most absurd extremes. Concepts of community and togetherness have been replaced by the concepts of rugged individualism and the narcissism and megalomania that have grown (ironically enough) from “social” media.
It is time we embraced collectivism again for the sake of reconciliation. Unfortunately, I have little faith in our political, social, or civil systems of sociological drivers to bring about this type of reform. In fact, I am fairly certain these are destined for failure. Democrats and Republicans will never get along. Conservatives and liberals will never agree. And the number of self-identified groups (whether it be racial, sexual, gender, or something completely new we haven’t seen before) will continue to divide us until the very fabric of society crumbles into anarchy.
There is only one way in which true reconciliation can occur and that is through the ministry of reconciliation brought about through the blood of Jesus Christ. Before our society can be reconciled one to another, we must first be reconciled to our creator – the God of the Universe who created all things. And the only way we can be reconciled to him is through the blood of Jesus Christ. Never before has our “American” society been weaker, but that means we are ripe for reconciliation through Christ. As it says in Romans 5:6-11
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (ESV)
Yes, our society is at war with God right now. Yes, our society is His enemy, but that is right where we all were when God reconciled us to himself. Therefore, the same power that reconciled you and me can reconcile our crumbling and decaying society. But in order to make that happen, you and I are going to have to step up to the place and begin aggressively pursuing the ministry of reconciliation. Consider Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh….
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (ESV)
It is our responsibility to see the world the way God sees the world (not according to the flesh) and so to introduce the concept of reconciliation to the world… reconciliation of men to God and men to men... but it is God’s responsibility to actually do the reconciling. Our responsibility is to “persuade” and to “implore” them to be reconciled to the God so that they can be reconciled to each other.
Unfortunately, even within the church, we have failed to complete the ministry of reconciliation. The church is probably the last segment of society that is still – by its own choice – racially segregated. There are so many denominations and sects to the church that it is hard to know who believes what anymore. We have forgotten something very important – and it is exemplified by one of the verses in the above passage that was (intentionally) left out – verse 17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
There can be no reconciliation until we let go of all the earthly things that divide us and acknowledge who we are in Jesus Christ. We are one people, a “chosen race,” a “holy nation,” chosen by God (1 Peter 2:9). In Christ, there is racial divide, no gender divide, no socio-economic divide because we are all the same in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28). We have to begin living out this truth in our churches and spreading this truth to our society. I am not talking about compromising truth; I am talking about living in unity, which requires humility and effort on the part of each and every one of us. As Paul says in Ephesians 4
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)
Reconciliation can only come when we live and breathe and act as one and this can only happen in the context of the church living as the body of Christ.
I urge us – the church – therefore to ignite a spark of reconciliation within ourselves and to do everything we can to fan that spark into a flame that will bring reconciliation to the whole world. Make it a point to do something every day that brings people together rather than tearing them apart. Invite someone completely different than yourself to church. Go talk to that neighbor who is unlike yourself. Even if you consider them an “enemy” remember that it is the enemy that God is reconciling to himself. Be, therefore, the ministry of reconciliation in this broken, un-reconciled world.