Humanity seems to be poisoned by an “us and them” mentality. It is the source of all human conflict. Is there any way to escape that outlook on human existence?
Let's examine the "us and them" mentality in the context of a recent news event in our community - the vandalism at the Native American Church. (Wisconsin Dells Events Photo)
When most of you heard of this event, your "us and them" might have been expressed as you being "good" and the vandals being "bad", or you being "loving" and them being "hateful".
Those categories - us-them, good-bad, loving-hateful - came about because of one act of vandalism. It is the kind of act that I will call a "relationship event". It was certainly a relationship event between the vandals and the Church. It was also a relationship event between the vandals and the greater Madison area because it was reported in the Madison media.
Relationship events have the potential to create and proliferate exclusive "us and them" factions that breed illusions of superiority and irresolvable conflicts. The types of relationship events are countless - conversations, e-mails, Face-book postings, letters, phone calls, sexual encounters, songs, financial transactions, rallies, books, articles, etc.
We Christians generally believe, despite all words to the contrary, that God also sets up exclusive "us and them" groups based on what we do - groups named "saved" and "unsaved".
Does God really do that?
Let's look at what Saint Paul says about the "saved" group in the opening verses of the second chapter of his letter to Ephesus.
He tells them, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world …we were …deserving of wrath". We might say the Ephesians' past relationship events looked somewhat like the recent act of vandalism in our community.
Paul then says, "But because of [God's] great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Did you catch that? God put the Ephesians in the "saved" group even when they were dead – in other words, even when they were like those people who vandalized the church.
God does not divide us up into "saved and unsaved" groups based on the quality of our relationship events. God's relationship with all people - vandals or saints - might be described as an inclusive "us and them" relationship - like a loving parent who tries to bring a strong-willed, adopted child into the family. Yes, there are believers and non-believers - but WE choose those categories; God doesn't divide us up into those categories.
To all people - whether you think you are a vandal or a saint - I say this: "God has already done everything to save us. Now BE saved (live saved) by believing in what Jesus has already done for us. Make every relationship event one that helps other people believe in Jesus, too. We can't do that on our own, nor can we even believe on our own. The Holy Spirit will help us. We can tell the Holy Spirit's voice from our own voice by listening for His inclusive ‘us and them’ language. We learn to recognize that kind of language from the Bible, prayer, and worship with other believers. We will still fall short of God's standard of inclusiveness in our relationship events, because we are all like two-year old children trying to be like our adult parents. But there will be some progress in this life. Jesus died for all of us to forgive all our short falls - past, present, and future."
Jesus is the only antidote for the exclusive "us and them" poison.
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