As a white, educated, and west-coast city dweller I've been isolated from some of the pain and fears of many others. I want to spend more time listening. This election hasn't created a division; it has exposed it. It didn't create fear, resentment, distrust, or disrespectful debate. It showed us the mirror and pierced our echo chambers. I pray we move forward by breaking them down. I pray we can listen to each other without dismissing others as deplorable, vile, or subhuman. Our political debate this year was just like our Facebook walls not by coincidence. Our country is lost, lonely, powerless, fearful, hateful, prejudice, and spiteful (not just Trump and his voters).
It's not the moral decay that has me feeling we have an unChristian nation; it's our fears and the anger that expose it. A society that knows the love of a suffering God to make himself close to us doesn't live in anger. A society that knows the power of resurrection doesn't live or vote in fear.
In the coming days, we will hear cheap talk of unity and peace—cheap because it will not require the pain and burden of the love nor the power of the gospel. By unity, we will describe an ability to accept results. By peace, we will mean an ability to wait a few years before we have a public conversation and vote. We will retreat to our silos to plot revenge or conquest. The unity the gospel describes is not cheap, but costly. The peace of the gospel isn’t weak, but powerful.
Unity Comes From Love
The love of Jesus forms any true bond of unity. The central message and love of God to humanity, the gospel, is driven by unity. God must and shall live with his people. The story of Scripture is one of a faithfully loving God is the self-sacrificing pursuit of the healing, well-being, and life of his creation.
Humanity only finds life unified to the Triune God. The essential markers of the gospel, Jesus’ incarnation, life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension, sing to our souls the lengths, heights, and depths to which God will go to be with us—his love.
This is how, Paul, can so confidently write that this perfect love of the Father, Son, and Spirit drives out all fear. A human heart which receives the breathtaking love of God does not know fear. There is nothing to fear as an adopted child of God. The heart that has this love poured over it is no longer enslaved to our anger.
Unity with one another comes from receiving and extending this same love to one another. This extravagant unity comes with significant cost. We extend God’s love to others by obligating ourselves to them without prerequisites, without hesitation, and without limits to self-sacrifice.
Unity isn’t reached as a vehicle for improvement or as a goal to achieve as a society but as an outflow of the nature of God and his work with humanity. In this invaluable unity, Christ is the object of affection. Love displaces fear and anger replacing it with unity to God and the possibility of unity with others.
Love of neighbor in our society would create unity we’ve never known. Urban areas would love and sacrifice for rural areas. White men would weep with black men and fight for their good. The immigrant would be welcomed with hospitality. Women would stand up for justice. The elderly would encourage the young. The young would respect the old. Enemies would love and receive love. All because of God’s great love and presence with us.
Peace Comes From Courage
We need courage not to fight battles, but to have faith in the victory won in the resurrection. To have the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. While the resurrection of Jesus ensures eternal bliss, it also raises our lives from the dead today. We take courage not in having nothing to lose, but from having received everything—abundant life.
Resurrection means nothing steals, distorts, or deteriorates your life. Christ is alive. You are alive. This crucial courage creates the availability for costly peace. It’s within the confidences of a raised and eternal life that we can walk the harrowing road to the other, the enemy, the neighbor to seek peace.
Peace that does not come from this courage will always rely on a negotiation of emotions to create a sense of calm without discussing differences, like an awkward Thanksgiving meal. Peace that comes from resurrection courage will look differences directly. It will have the will to listen. It will have the boldness to confess pain, struggle, sin, anger, and resentment. True peace comes through brave humility. Above all, the peace won in through the gospel of Jesus brings us to the common path and journey of walking with God in the same space.
Unity and peace are walking with God together. True peace exists in shared worship, shared prayer, and the shared trembling before the sovereign and good God. How will we share our discipleship journeys beyond our class, education, geography, race, or employment? By noticing the powerful body of Christ, he has saved and made new. We fight for common life, common discipleship, and common liturgy.
Desperate Need for Diverse Discipleship Life
Today, for many we are invited to lament our way toward an understanding of the power and beauty of the gospel. For others, we are invited to break our idols in repentance. Still, to others, this is a day that demands we share the gospel life, gospel community, and gospel mission with people who are not like us. We can’t go back to our corners as the Church. We must press beyond dialogue and include each other in the essence of our lives.
Brad Watson (@bradawatson) serves as a pastor of Bread&Wine Communities where he develops and teaches leaders how to form communities that love God and serve the city. Brad is the author of Raised?, Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities, and Sent Together: How the Gospel Sends Leaders to Start Missional Communities. He lives in southeast Portland with his wife and their two daughters. You can read more from Brad at www.bradawatson.com.