The divides among us.

You don't have to live in Alabama long to know that there are important issues that divide people. The foremost being football. You think I'm joking - when I went into the ministry I was told there are two things you don't talk about from the pulpit (mainly because they are so divisive). Football and politics.

Football. Auburn versus Alabama. That is a rivalry my friends. And you know what makes a rivalry? Good old fashioned hate.

Politics. The division, eight years ago, was as easy to see as red states and blue states. And as difficult to define as a blue spot within a red state or red spot within a blue....whatever. But politics can often divide us.

What is more important? The things we disagree about or the way in which we disagree about them?

There are gobs of things that can separate humanity. Heck, there are gobs of things that can separate Christianity (or Methodism!).

But what really divides us is not our stance on abortion or whether you worship Allah or Yahweh. What really divides us is the way that you divide the world into "us" and "them."

You can't fault a person for categorizing the world into such stark contrasts - it makes things easier. If that guy is dressed funny on the street, certainly he's a beggar or a drunk, right? Or if that person is slick and dapper, of course you can trust him, right!? You can easily stereotype a person and it is precautionary measure. Right? Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Blink that describes the very nature of humanity to make snap decisions. Right...

The only problem, is that often, "us" and "them" are not worlds apart, but worlds similar. If we leave judgment (in the grand scheme) to God and witness to the divine image in each person (see them as Jesus does) we would be much more apt to bring people together than separate them.

I can't once think of a time when Jesus shooed someone from his presence because of their beliefs about homosexuality or whether they believed in a just-war theory (he mostly hung out though with the Bernard Madoffs and Jenna Jamesons of his time - i.e. tax collectors and prostitutes, the rejects of society).

This deliberate attack (by Jesus) upon not the beliefs, but the handling of those with different beliefs, is I think truly the heart of Jesus' message.

The Good News is this: Jesus Christ lived and died for the forgiveness of sins.

That truth is good news for everyone, regardless of their beliefs. Christians who use the above statement as a wedge will find their Jesus never did the same. St. Paul might have been concerned about the unity of the Church and so some very pointed things about who is in and who is out within the Body of Christ (thus pulling an Old Testament trick that had already been tried - eschewing everyone/thing non-Jewish) .

But Holiness has NEVER been about who is in and who is out. It has always been about become distinctly different - God-like actually. To be like Jesus is to see things like Jesus. Jesus makes us holy. Not your anger/bitterness/pride/indignation at some group different than yours.

Which is harder? Being in fellowship with like-minded individuals or being in fellowship with people who will test you, bend you, challenge you, and give you opportunities to be more Christ-like?

Yeah. The divides among us don't have to divide us. Jesus Christ can bring us together. Not because its going to (necessarily) change all your beliefs, but it will change how you handle those who don't believe like you do. I'm not saying you shouldn't be passionate - I'm saying you should be passionate about different things.

You don't want to be like Jesus. If you did, you would be passionately opposed to oppression and constantly sharing the love of God with even your enemies. Everyone can love their friends/family.

It takes a Godly, holy, christian to love an enemy. The divides among us are all of human design.