The Great Divide

cracked concreteI’m usually pretty sure that I’m right.  Unless I know absolutely nothing about a subject–such as astrophysics or how to be an extrovert–I have my opinions, and they’re the correct ones, obviously.  I enjoy being around people who share my opinions, and I look at those who don’t share them with annoyance or even suspicion.  This happens frequently…I’ve even caught myself feeling slightly aghast at people who enjoy the 6-month-long, fiery-furnace-misery otherwise known as summer in Oklahoma! My thoughts went like this: How can anyone enjoy 6 months of broiling in an oven and smelling sweat?  If I hate something, everyone else should hate it with equal passion (and be as miserable as I am)!  There’s something inside of me determined to create isolation–it’s like I want my own little island where I’m queen and everything goes exactly as I please.  On my island, no one can disagree with me or see things differently than I do.

This mindset, of course, is both ridiculous and self-defeating.

We weren’t made for little islands; we were made for community and relationships.  We were made to love God, other people, and all of creation–and we were made to enjoy being loved by them.

But…we don’t.

Why don’t we?  And what is love?

Love is wanting good for someone and then doing that good for them.  Love is meeting the needs of another even at great cost to oneself.  Real love creates a paradise.  In the beginning, the world was good–it was completely free of evil, suffering, and death (see Genesis 1-2).

That’s not how the world is now.

The first man and woman believed the lies of a serpent rather than the truth of their good Creator.  Defying their Creator, they ate from the tree of knowing good and evil.  Then everything in the world–including themselves–shattered (see Gen 2-3).

Instead of peace and joy, they experienced fierce battles and deep sorrows.  And their story is our story. Rather than enjoying laughter and light, we weep and grope our way through heavy darkness.

A vast chasm separates us from what we were created to be and do and what we actually become and act out.  There’s a reason work life is hard; there’s a reason home life is tough; there’s a reason we experience racial tension, starvation, war, rape, genocide, lack of clean water, child abuse, murder, earthquakes, theft, hurricanes, and divided families.

Everything is broken.  People are broken.  Relationships are fractured.  All of creation is groaning in pain, hoping and longing to be made good and new again, like things were in the beginning.

We want things to be good again.  But since we, ourselves, are broken, we don’t see reality very clearly.  We get confused and mistake truth for lies, darkness for light.  We often see the evil of others very clearly but are blind to the evil inside of ourselves.  The one skill we all possess in abundance is destruction: both self-destruction and the destruction of others.

Today, in America, we are a nation deeply divided.  This isn’t a new development or the result of us abandoning our “pristine,” Christian heritage.  We have always been a nation of broken people trying our best to patch things together and live in peace; and we have always made tragic errors.  Slavery of human beings–based primarily on outward appearance–was once an accepted part of our culture and way of life. As a nation, we imported people with black skin to live in hovels and die working on plantations–every day, they were treated like farm animals.  We killed or corralled Native Americans, taking away their land and livelihood, driving them onto reservations that were conveniently located away from “our” homes and land.  Women couldn’t vote.  Sex trafficking exists to this day.  Exploitation of the vulnerable–whether it’s a child or an elderly person in a nursing home–happens every day.  The abuses we have committed–and do commit–against each other bring hot tears to my eyes even as I write this.

Things are a mess.  They’ve been a mess ever since we defied God and chose to know evil in the Garden.  What we need, more than anything, is a way out…we need a bridge to cross our little islands.  We need a true King who truly loves us.  We are in desperate need of rescue.  We need everything to be made right–everything to be made good and new again.

We need Jesus.

We need the real Jesus who came in humility as a baby, vulnerable and dependent on those He came to save.  He grew up and began His work of making all things good and new, healing the diseased; giving sight to the blind; raising the dead back to life; feeding the hungry; treating women as equals to men; and setting the captives free!  He rescued anyone who realized their own brokenness and need to be rescued.  He told those who knew they were evil that He forgave them–and then He died in their place, removing the crushing weight of self-and-others-destruction from their shoulders and placing it on His own.  He died to defeat both evil and death, then came back to life in victory, blazing with the glory of His work of making us (and all of Creation) good and new again, able once more to love and be loved!

We need Jesus.

Today in our country, people I respect are insisting we must return to our founding principles and ideals, while people I don’t respect are exploiting every social tension we possess, essentially screaming, “Fight, fight, fight!”  The problem is that left to ourselves, we will always fight.  On our own, we can’t consistently live up to ideals or principles. We all create little islands, because we’re all broken.

We all need Jesus: Black and white; Republican and Democrat; Christian and atheist; gay and straight; men and women; young and old; English-speaking and Spanish-speaking.  Every nation, tribe, and tongue needs Jesus, our Rescuer.

By ourselves, we form ridiculous, self-defeating groups and clubs, shaking our fist at the “other” side, placing all of the blame for the mess we’re in on “them”–after all, it can’t possibly be our fault!  We are right and they, obviously, are wrong.  “They” are the reason we see evil and injustice running rampant through our homes, neighborhoods, and streets.  “We” the righteous will scream and rant and rave, throwing stones at the guilty…completely and utterly oblivious to the fact that we, too, are guilty.  Jesus is the only One who never sinned…and He not only didn’t throw a stone, He died to rescue the guilty ones (read: all of us).  Jesus is the only One who truly loved and loves…and He is the only One who can restore our ability to do the same.

A great divide exists between people and people; between people and God.  Jesus came to cross that Great Divide and to reconcile us.  He came to reconcile man to God but also man to man.  We were all made to love and be loved.  Praise God, He is making that possible once again.  He became our bridge; He is our hope.  All we must do is see our brokenness and evil and accept His beautiful, costly rescue.

May it be so.

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