It's a pretty blatant and painful fact, the world is plagued with an extensive and intricate onset of communal opposition. More simply put, people are just not getting along. I know that so many would disagree with me, but when we closely examine the system God really has for us, one that ties communities together, the truth is, on Earth that system is failing, not completely, not everywhere; but still, all together too much.
How do I know we're not connecting in the right ways?
I pay attention, and not just to gather a bit of info here and there. Since childhood, I've been engaged in scores of communities, small, large, everything in between. I've lived in big cities like Seattle, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. I've lived in Small towns like the one I live in now. My list of friends has been greatly diverse. They come from all over the world.
But for the purpose of this series, the lines drawn between nationality are not important. They are not what divides us. Geography, language and bodily aspects have nothing to do with the truest reasons we're picking and pulling each other apart. Hate is hate and it crosses all borders, both physical and abstract.
Even if you don't have my experience, all you have to do is turn on the news. You'll quickly find out that the basic problems that exist in one area of the world exist in just about every other area. The details are different, but the lack of compassion, inclusiveness and forgiveness is the same. Even many of those who try their best to follow God are so engaged with our divisions, they are far from promoting what goes on in God's home, true fellowship.
Where we often fail
I'm confident that where God resides there is no room for things like sabotage, gossip, slander and hatred. And in order to get there, we have to wake up to the hidden realities of why we can't share our biggest mistakes, why we have so much trouble with real love and why our friendships, marriages and families are consistently and painfully unraveling.
We smile from across the street, then settle behind closed doors and verbally bash our neighbors. We say hello as we walk by, then as soon as hearing distance fades, one-sided criticism comes out. And all too often, the game is played where the more we highlight the next person's faults, the less we have time to pay attention to our own.
The biggest failure is not in our hidden opposition. These days, because of the overwhelming number of examples we find, it's become human instinct to unintentionally or intentionally harm one another. Our biggest failure, the thing that keeps us from moving forward into solid fellowship, is the tendency to justify the walls we put up.
It gets worse
It's not just a quarreling few. The disorder is terribly abundant across the planet. We run entire campaigns where we slam, sneak, shoot, explode, poison and destroy. Our weapons range from words to slamming doors, slingshots to explosives, plans to random acts. We get numb to them and therefore don't often pay attention to their effect, the systemic breakdown of the web that God wants to form between us.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
Galatians 6:2 KJV
It's really quite simple. God didn't design us to work against each other. There's only one kind of system that benefits from our tearing each other apart. It starts with the anger of God's biggest opponent and trickles down from there. It continues with a universal pyramid scheme. It falls away at the front lines. That's where the devil's expendables take the consequences for destroying the lives of both themselves and those they chase down.
We imagine such deep divisions between one who wields one type of weapon and one who wields another. But we often don't understand that prejudice can do as much damage as a gun. A slanderous phone call can start a chain of events that can lead to a death. A thoughtless criticism, and the unchecked fallout that can ensue, can often destroy a family with the same spiritual force of a drunken car crash.
Each one of us can, and usually does find justification for the ways we cause breakage for others. So we're left with the belief that the damage caused by the next person is always greater than our own. But what we usually don't realize is where our social divisions often truly lie.
"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (why do you look at the splinter in your brother's eye, but not at the board in your own eye)
Matthew 7:3 KJV
We think we can draw lines between one another based on the severity of our offenses. But the malfunction in that theory is, the severity is always subjective because, as humans, we don't even remotely understand how far our actions really go.
I believe the ripple effects of everything we do never stop. Every word we say, every action we engage in, they're all seeds that never stop growing. Bad-mouthing the people across the way seems fairly innocent. It's consequences are not usually obvious or immediately severe, but they are as perpetual as the gunfire on the other side of the city.
Breaking the misconception
If you want to truly draw a line between your own behavior and that of the person you deem more offensive, your only choice is to disengage from damaging others. Your only option is to do what Christ has instructed... forgive, include and educate, without hate, without anger, without a lack of empathy. In other words, you have to go against the grain.
"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven"
Luke 6:37 KJV
I'm not trying to be negative
I'm trying to be technical. I'm trying to address the breakage in a mechanical, psychological and emotional way. We need to pick this damage apart the way we would a broken car engine; diagnose, disassemble, repair and rebuild.
I would love to see this happen on a global scale, but I know the reality is that I'd be foolish to expect that now. What we can do is invite a better sense of correction of such issues into our own lives. Again, that requires us to cease fire. It requires the practice of empathy and compassion, two of the many aspects of true fellowship.
How I figured it out
I grew up in a community that still exists as it did when I was young. The news of mistakes made by others is usually met with implications of stupidity and worthlessness. Gossip and slander are rampant. Empathy is scarce. Many relationships exist without deep connection, due to the fear of improper use of things like personal secrets, beliefs and mistakes.
Later on I moved away and came to a place where stories of mistakes were often met with understanding. People consistently and constantly tried to put themselves in the shoes of others. Unusual statements were the norm like: "it can happen to anyone" and "you don't solve bad behavior with more bad behavior, you solve it with education".
After joining that community, the first few times I would try to gossip about others, I was quickly led into compassionate conversations. My hard, judgmental outlook toward the behavior of the next person was broken. In it's place was put the ability to see a soul locked in hardship and the ways that person was mislead.
I ditched the cheap rewards of encouraging a group of people to pat each other on the back for slamming and judging others. In place of those rewards came the warm and inviting wisdom of looking at the world through the eyes of others.
Benefits of being inclusive
I'm sure I understand why Christ forgave so many that humans can't forgive. It has little to do with feeling warm and fuzzy toward my fellow man. It doesn't make me want to throw flower pedals at the feet of a killer. I don't feel like buying Ice cream for the guy who vandalized my car. But what it does do is open doors to practical ways of educating bad behavior out of people. No, I don't mean "we'll educate him about how mean we can be when we don't like what he did". I mean, "let's find out why that person did it wrong, so we can help others do it right".
"we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are" (Jesus was not immune to what makes us feel bad or angry. He was tempted to do wrong just like the rest of us.)
Hebrews 4:15 KJV
No matter who did what to who. The moment Person A takes a destructive stance toward Person B, it's most likely a fact that Person B will return the attitude, and probably the fire. So when we turn offense into revenge, the doors that would allow us to share useful information close. We cease to allow a learning process that truly helps heal poor behavior.
Fellowship breaks all of the wrongs mentioned above. It tears down walls and builds not only bridges, but foundations. I don't expect the world to get this because there are too many rewards being thrown out for pushing each other away. They range from a false sense of safety, to stuff, to money. Still, if just one reader trades the rewards of that push for the rewards of inclusiveness, the hours spent writing this are well justified.
Why I want to pass this on
"for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Galatians 6:7 KJV
It's pretty simple. What goes around comes around. I've learned through my own hardship, my own poverty and my own mistakes; no matter where we sit now, the position we see others in can become our own in a short moment.
I could easily watch someone else I care about fall into the wrong information, the wrong situations and the wrong behavior. I can't expect forgiveness for those I love or for myself if I can't give it. I can't expect a better community for my daughter if I can't help build one for others. Justifying the damage I cause will never separate me from others who cause damage. And, I can't expect a future with God if I can't grow away from what the world wants and toward what Jesus has taught us.
This series will address the walls that stand between us all. They range from protecting ourselves from possible damage, to carrying down the anger of the Devil, to the gain of those who set out for intentional destruction.