Walls divide, bridges connect. Walls create sides, bridges span gaps. We need unity, not division. We need to gather, not to scatter.
From politics to race, even the science behind the pandemic and climate change, we are a divided society. There is a level of anxiousness and we are in a state of unrest. Many of us are driving conflict between ‘our side’ and ‘their side.’
We are using “whoever is not for us, is against us” to divide. If I am not for you, that does not mean I am against you. I may not even have a position on the subject, or my position isn’t the same extreme limited one. The framework of feuds and strife is built upon fueling differences, instead of honoring our shared humanity. Again, I ask when did ‘we’ become ‘us and them’?
Remember back to our childhood when a scuffle broke out, teachers, coaches or parents would pull bodies apart and inevitably someone would point and holler, “He started it!” That statement was intended to justify the chaos, but it never worked. Intelligent adults would respond along the lines of: “I don’t care who started it. We need to end it.” The wisdom was in understanding that who “started it” was irrelevant to the goal of peace and moving forward. Unfortunately, the need to assert who “started it” is still important to many of us. We continue to go round and round, century after century, with pointed fingers and intolerance. All for ‘our side.’ It doesn’t really matter who started it, whichever “it” we are talking about. If it’s one side this time, it will be the other side next time. Until someone finds the humility and wisdom to not point fingers or allow animosities to fester, our right to ‘pursue happiness’ will always be a struggle.
I recently read Pope Francis’ letter from this past December, where he addresses crisis versus conflict. He urges us not to confuse the two, they are different. One can choose to be ignorant or ignore a conflict (not my problem), but with a crisis everyone is afflicted and therefore should be working for the solution. Crisis can have a positive outcome; it can move us forward. Conflict creates a separation, a competition where only one side can win. Conflict works to demean and denounce; it destroys a sense of community while creating narrow, as well as incomplete, ‘elitist’ attitudes and factions. Pope Francis notes, “In the midst of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality.” He asks that we stop living in conflict and journey together, open to crisis.
On June 16, 1858 Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech to his Republican colleagues as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. This speech is now referred to as Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech where Lincoln used the phrase, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The speech was not warmly received, and many felt it contributed to him losing that race. However, most experts agree that standing by this eternal and abstract truth, it presented Lincoln as a statesman in the eyes of voters – eventually supporting his campaign for President.
As scripture tells us (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:24-25, Luke 11:7), a house divided will fall, whether that is a nation, community, a family, and even a church. My current concern is that this discord now applies to ‘House of Christ.’ Christians are doing what we know is Satan’s mode of operation – scattering and sowing division. Satan’s strategy is to divide and conquer. He builds walls, not bridges. He must be enjoying all this conflict and division.
Our faith must free us to serve all, regardless of which side they are on. We are meant to love and serve others. We are all broken and sinners, none of us are perfect. We cannot be completely and unequivocally correct, so how are we determining the standards to differentiate sides? Are our conversations and social media activity building a bridge or a wall? Do they add constructive thoughts or disparaging ones?
In San Diego local leaders erected a pedestrian bridge to Tijuana, over the border wall to connect both sides. That bridge which passes over a wall built to separate them, is a symbol for the many bridges that the two cities have been building. People on both sides have decided that their closeness represents an opportunity to make life better and more prosperous for everyone.
There is a Biblical story of the Roman centurion who approached Jesus on behalf of his paralyzed servant (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus listened to this man who was the ultimate representation of oppression, a man from the ‘other side.’ However, Jesus focused on the centurion as a person. He didn’t question the source of the request. He ‘descended into the particulars’ and listened closely to the heart of problem.
As Christians we embrace the doctrine that every human has a soul that transcends the physical body and eventually, we will leave behind these physical identities we hold so dear and fight for so ardently. We are all made of the same stuff with the same eternal destination, regardless of political affiliation, nationality, materialistic possessions, or whichever side of the wall we are on. Christ is the bridge we need. He died for all of us.
We have let the letter of the law and the court of public opinion build walls and divide our houses. We have chosen to fuel conflict as oppose to quell crisis. Our parents were right… it only matters who ends it. So, let’s begin to tear down our walls and stop pointing fingers. Let’s do what it takes to end it and journey together being bridges.