This July 4th weekend, I’m burdened for America. We are so divided by every issue.
At no time since I’ve been on earth–and I arrived in the Spring of 1940–was this country more divided than the decade of the 1960s. Americans were trying to figure out what to do in Vietnam, racial marches and sit-ins took over the front pages of big-city newspapers, two prominent leaders were assassinated (Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy), Communism was on the march internationally, and no one could agree on anything.
On October 22, 1968, during the presidential campaign, Richard Nixon and his entourage traveled through the little town of Deshler, Ohio. Sign-bearing crowds lined the streets. In the mob, 13-year-old Vickie Lynn Cole was holding a sign which made her famous, if only for a few days.
“Bring Us Together,” her sign read.
After he was elected, Nixon mentioned the message of that sign, adopted it as his administration’s theme, and invited Vickie and her family to the inauguration. (Thereafter, she faded into obscurity. Wikipedia says she’s now a school principal in Ohio. When interviewed, she said she had dropped the sign she originally held, then picked one up off the ground. She had no idea what the sign said and tossed it away after the rally. So much for Vickie Lynn’s politics!)
I’ll leave you to decide how well Mr. Nixon did in bringing the country together.
My point here is that division is the order of our day in this country. We are torn asunder by every issue you can name—from immigration to drilling for oil to the Gulf disaster to what to do about the economy. We are divided over the national debt, bailouts for companies that get in trouble, and healthcare. We are splintered over the role of the Constitution and the Supreme Court, over the role of religion in American life and whether to have a Day of Prayer.
We are at odds over a hundred major matters and 10,000 little issues.
It would be funny if it were not so sad. After 8 years of the Bush administration, one year into the Obama White House, all a lot of people can suggest is: Vote Republican. I want to respond, “Hey, friend, they don’t have the answer either! Remember–we have just spent 8 years there!”
Neither group has a clue. Our nation is lost. “Dear God, come find us.”
The Prophet Jeremiah said of his day and perfectly described our own as well: “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”(Jer.10:23).
I posted a note on Facebook Friday night that is drawing a fair amount of comment. It begins: “Excuse the French.”
The full note:
“Excuse the French. This Sunday, get your butt in Church and get down on your knees and thank the Living God that you live in this country that is still the finest one on the earth. Then, walk outside and determine to work to bring us together. This division is killing America, folks!!!”
The responses started immediately.
My son in North Carolina said, “We’ve seen worse.” I was tempted to tell him we have, but he was too young to remember. He was born in 1966.
One fellow said, “Your post begs the question: WHAT IS WORTH DIVIDING OVER as a nation?” I responded: “I’ll tell you this, friend–9/10ths of the stuff that is dividing us now is not worth what it is costing us. We can do so much better than we are.”
Another wrote, “Lack of unity is bad. Unifying around a lie is worse.” I responded, “The truth that we can unite around, my friend, is THIS NATION IS WORTH SAVING. As things stand today, we are doing far more harm to America than those Russian spies ever tried to do.”
A woman in Seattle said we need a different kind of leader today, one with a vision for humanity, who knows what it means to be free, etc., etc.
By then I was tired of responding. What I thought was, “Quit waiting on a leader. You be a leader! You stand up and speak up! Dare to be a healer and a uniter!”
You can start bringing us together from right where you are at this moment.
My text is Romans 12. The entire chapter. It’s too lengthy to type in here, but well worth the trouble for you to stop and read.
From Romans 12, SEVEN THINGS EACH OF US CAN DO TO BRING UNITY AND HARMONY TO OUR CHURCH, OUR COMMUNITY, OUR LAND.
1) “Commit our lives to Jesus Christ.” Romans 12:1-2
Nothing brings peace to a soul and focus to a life like a commitment to one big idea. And the biggest idea on the planet is that JESUS IS LORD. Ask Him to forgive you of your sin. He died for that very purpose. Start there. If you are torn asunder by conflicting desires, weighed down by guilt, and burdened over your failures to get life right, start here. On your knees.
Give yourself to Jesus Christ. A living sacrifice. On the altar.
Then, get back on the altar tomorrow. The prayer of our life then, every day of our life, becomes: “Lord Jesus, what will you have me to do?”
2) “Humble ourselves.” Romans 12:3
“For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment….”
The last person who is going to bring us together is a bull-headed egotistical know-it-all. Remember, this is not about you and it’s not about me. It’s about serving God and blessing people.
3) “Recognize we are parts of the entire body.” Romans 4-8
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members one of another….”
You are not going to save the planet, this country, this city, or this church all by yourself. You are part of the Lord’s Body. Your job and mine is to be faithful in the place where He put us and to value one another.
We are a body. If one part of the body hurts, the entire body suffers.
If you are a member of Grace Baptist Church, get off the sideline and into the game. Get out of the critic’s seat and suit up. We need you helping, not pointing out what we’re doing wrong. You are part of this team too.
4) “Devote ourselves to one another.” Romans 12:10
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to to one another in honor.”
Listen to polticians debate the present issues. My side is the right side and the other guys are devils, destroying everything that is holy.
Even men and women in church talk that way sometimes about those with whom they differ.
I’ll listen to you differ with me all day if you will value me as someone you respect. But if you say–as some anonymous person said to me in an email this week–“You are one sick individual,” then that’s the end of the conversation. (I deleted it without responding.)
5. “Determine to be positive.” Romans 12:15
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Anyone can be negative. The person who thinks more about the welfare of the entire team and the total program is a rare individual. We often prize our individuality more than we do the team or the church or the nation, and everything suffers as a result.
I’m not sure what this is about psychologically, but there is something inside many of us that hears someone make a statement and immediately we start looking for the opposite side of that issue.
They propose a new budget in church and we start trying to find something wrong with it.
They present a plan to clean up the Coast, to put our nation back on course, to heal this land–and we start looking for the problem.
What if we decided to become a team player?
What if we decided to encourage people? When we find someone rejoicing, we join in. When they are hurting, we hurt with them. This is particularly true inside the church, which is the focus of Romans 12.
I like to tell church members that there is a way by which they can oppose something the pastor and deacons are recommending in church and carry the day doing it. That always gets their attention.
The key is: become so positive, such a team-player, so supportive of your church leadership, that when you find it necessary to oppose something, you have their undivided attention.
But if you are always against, forever rising in opposition, then you have no influence. No one listens to anything you say.
6. “Become a peacemaker.” Romans 12:18
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
Look for ways to bring people together. Look for common ground.
There is no greater peace in the universe than peace with God. Start there. Encourage the people you know and love to open their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ. When we repent of our sins and invite Him to rule over us, He gives us the inner peace we have been seeking.
Then, going in His strength, we are able to work for peace between those around us. Isaiah 32:17 reads, “And the work of righteousness will be peace.”
7. “Become a Do-Gooder.” Romans 12:21
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The prayer of St. Francis cannot be improved on…
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we awake to eternal life.”
Can one person make that much difference?
The answer is: we’re all ‘one person.’ No one is two people. Every movement on the planet began with one person.
From somewhere in the distant past I recall hearing of a plumber who was walking down the road complaining to high heaven. When someone asked him what was wrong, he said, “The freeze last night busted 10,000 pipes in this city! Everyone has frozen pipes. Everyone is calling for the plumber, and I’m only one person.”
They saw that same plumber later in the morning and he was humming a tune. “Well, you’re in a great attitude. What has changed?” The plumber said, “What changed is that I have repaired three of those busted pipes, that’s what has changed.”
Doing something, no matter how small it may seem to some, has a way of changing everything. Start today, right where you are.