The Standard January 20, 2022
For many of us, turning on or tuning into the news each day bogs us down as reports of increased polarization make any hint of unity seem like an impossibility. When hearing about different approaches or solutions to problems we are facing as a country, our response too often is to impugn negative motives on those with whom we disagree and to assume they have evil intentions. Instead of getting to know people with opposing views, many of us surround ourselves with like-minded friends and fail to take time to listen to or to analyze data thoroughly across the board. In retreating to our corners and painting others with a broad brush, we only add to the fracturing of society.
At times within the church, we encounter negativity when different perspectives on how best to accomplish our mission are expressed. We might have laudable goals, but still can get caught up in the trap of being wrapped up in the wrong focus. Although we never will attain perfect harmony in this life, even amongst Christians, by focusing on God as our highest goal, we can improve relationships within the church universal as well as in the world.
Jesus challenges us to keep the main thing the main thing. “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12:28-31)
Tim Keller in his book The Reason for God references an old text with applicable truth for our modern era. “In The Nature of True Virtue, one of the most powerful treatises on social ethics ever written, Jonathan Edwards lays out how sin destroys the social fabric. He argues that human society is deeply fragmented when anything but God is our highest love. If our highest goal in life is the good of our family, then, says Edwards, we will tend to care less for other families. If our highest goal is the good of our nation, tribe, or race, then we will tend to be racist or nationalistic. If our ultimate goal in life is our own individual happiness, then we will put our own economic and power interests ahead of others. Edwards concludes that only if God is our summum bonum, our ultimate good and life center, will we find our heart drawn out not only to people of all families, races, and classes, but to the whole world in general.”