divided

let me try on your shoes

“We’re so divided nowadays.” That’s what we hear, correct? It’s left versus right. Liberal versus conservative. People who believe in science versus those who don’t. People who want progress versus those who stand in the way. Those who are reasonable versus those who are irrational. We’re moving toward civil war.

We can take pride in knowing we are heirs to a wonderful dynamic winding back through the ages.

In the first century, the apostle Paul addresses this when writing to the church in Corinth. In the opening chapter of 1 Corinthians, he rejoices in the grace of God that’s been shown to them. He encourages them with the reminder they lack no spiritual gift, and they will be strengthened to the end by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then he immediately turns his attention to a report “from Chloe’s people.” (Maybe we could think of them as intrepid journalists — or as whistleblowers!) They bring information that the community has broken up into factions. People are making claims like, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” That last bunch enjoys some serious bragging rights!

Paul pleads with all of them. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (v. 10).

What does that mean? Are they to robotically think the same way? Perhaps an unquestioning acclamation of a shared strategic plan is called for. Should they submerge their consciousness in a method not unlike “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”?

A body-snatched Donald Sutherland

Hardly. Later in the letter, Paul emphasizes their unity in the body of Christ. That is a unity respecting diversity. The eye is not the ear. The ear is not the nose. Each has its role. The body cannot live otherwise.

This portrayal comes from a Christian perspective, but other faiths and philosophies have comparable outlooks.

Ultimately, the division comes from within. We are not at unity with ourselves. We don’t express the love Paul speaks of in chapter 13, the “hymn to love.” In verse 7 he says, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” The word for “believes” (πιστευω, pisteuō) means love places confidence in someone or something. Love is willing to entrust, to look for the best, to give the benefit of a doubt. How crazy would it be if we actually did that, instead of jumping to conclusions?

Leonard Swidler, long-time professor at Temple University, devised ten principles of dialogue (originally called the “Dialogue Decalogue” — the ten Commandments of Dialogue). All of them deserve great attention, but an especially interesting one is number ten: “To understand another religion or ideology one must try to experience it from within, which requires a ‘passing over,’ even if only momentarily, into another’s religious or ideological experience.” We (almost literally) need to walk in the other’s shoes.

“We’re so divided nowadays.” How about we swap sandals?

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James Moore

James Moore

lover of snow, dog-walker, husband of a wonderful wife, with whom I also happen to be a co-pastor (list is not arranged in order of importance!)