The Apostle Paul writes in what we call First Corinthians (which was really his second letter to the congregation – the first one was lost in time) these words, right at the start of his letter: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (I Cor. 1:10).
The church at Corinth was being rocked by disunity. Theological and cultural arguments were flying all over the church, leaving the church in shambles. As Paul accesses the situation, he quickly comes to realize that before he could address the many issues the church was wrestling with, he had to make sure that they were first and foremost united around the cross and Jesus Christ. Hence, he pens the words I sighted above, right at the start of his letter.
When Argyle Lutheran and Apple Grove Lutheran moved into the voting phase of the merger, our councils had a clear understanding of the importance of unity. They put into the merger voting plan that although a simple majority was required for a merger, the congregations wouldn’t proceed unless at least 75% voted in favor of the merger. Why? Because to the credit and wisdom of our councils, they knew unless there was unity, the merger would not work.
Unity is that important.
I sit here at my desk not knowing who the next president of our country is going to be. But what I can already tell you is that from the perspective of unity, this election is a worst-case scenario for our country. Every pastor knows that any vote at an annual meeting that goes 51-49% is a disaster that is just waiting to happen. That is why we have in the past, when we knew there was no unity of thought on an issue, we have tabled a vote, until we wrestled with it some more and came to a broader consensus. Consensus did come when members of the church listened– really listened – to what every person was saying. Only when everyone was heard and their thinking and feelings are taken into account did we move forward.
The problem we face right now as a country, is we can’t table the vote of the presidency. Likewise, I’m not sure that either side can really hear the other and take into account their thoughts, feelings and concerns at this time. We are facing a very difficult future as a country, regardless of who comes out on top.
I’m not sure how things are going to go in the coming weeks, but I do know one thing: as a gathering of Christians we need to work for unity. We need to be the ones who aren’t yelling, aren’t carrying weapons, aren’t crying out hateful words, or words that make “winners” and “losers” of people. We need to uphold the fact that we are one people, one nation, and although we certainly are a nation that doesn’t see eye to eye, we can still work in a way that doesn’t exclude but includes all, that lifts up the fallen, and hears the words of those who feel they have no voice. Maybe Abraham Lincoln read the introduction to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth when he wrote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Neither a church, nor a country divided, can stand. Sadly, I’m not sure our politicians are up to the task of working towards unity right now. I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m not, then that great responsibility falls upon those who gather around the cross and Jesus and understand that living for Christ is bigger than being a Republican or Democrat.
May God bless our country and may God bless the work that awaits us, no matter who lives in the White House this coming year.
~ God bless, Dan