Moore: Finding unity even when we disagree
“That’s just a bunch of rainbows and unicorns.”
What a great phrase. It describes a perspective almost hopelessly naive. Kind of like me and my best friend Terry back in 1982, peeling the paint off my garage with our cheap electric guitars and Marshall amps, thinking we sounding like anything other than a train wreck. As Paul Rodgers sang in Bad Company’s 1979 hit, “It’s all part of my rock and roll fantasy.” Fantasy indeed.
Today, rainbows and unicorns are often ascribed to people who suggest Americans could go deeper than their political, social, and moral differences to find a common source of unity and respect. You know, something like Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity choosing to get along. Yeah … right. Rainbows and unicorns.
Several of my “God and Classic Rock” articles have emphasized our great need to get past the hyper-partisanship and divisiveness so toxic to our culture. Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to this election, I’m opinionated as you, and I almost didn’t submit this article because I feel like a hypocrite as I write.
My problem is I spend a good deal of time reading the Bible (you know, pastor and all) and you never have to read far in scripture to realize just how important unity is to God. In fact, Christians aren’t just commanded to live in unity, Jesus said that doing so is one of the greatest expressions of who he is.
My favorite “unity strategy” is avoiding political conversations like the plague. Unless of course you agree with me. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Let’s build unity by only listening to people who think like we do! Not working out so well.
But how do we seek unity when we disagree deeply about so many important things? You know, without entering the realm of rainbows and unicorns or being posers? I don’t claim to live this out with any degree of perfection, but let me share two thoughts I see in scripture. If I have any integrity as a follower of Christ, I must pay this heed.
First, following Jesus means I must listen. Do I have a true willingness and desire to really hear and understand where another person is coming from, or do I just want to win the argument? Is it right to expect another to consider what I’m saying if I don’t first sincerely listen, consider and try to understand what they are saying?
Even more, am I open to the possibility (crazy, I know) that I just might learn something that will make me a better person and enrich us both? That they may, gasp, change the way I think about something?
The sad reality is we often are slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger. In contrast, the New Testament teaches “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Imagine that. This is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural, but by God’s grace may we head in that direction.
In the Hebrew Bible book of Proverbs, we are told “To answer before listening — that is folly and shame.” In other words, if I try to convince you of my position without also sincerely listening to yours, well, that is folly and to my shame.
Second, as a follower of Jesus, I need to get over being offended. Jesus dealt with people who were against him, lied to him, betrayed him, failed him, and abandoned him. But he never was offended. Jesus never wavered in his proclamation of truth, but he also never wavered in love, patience, and forgiveness. When we turn our back on a person and stomp away with an offended huff, we may think we are “taking a stand for truth,” but we might just be protecting our pride.
It’s striking that the God who loves unity doesn’t expect us to always agree. Make no mistake, there is such a thing as right and wrong, as truth. You believe that just as I do. Jesus often said “I tell you the truth.” But scripture also recognizes we will disagree and wrestle over what that truth is. I’m not saying we give up convictions so we can just get along. Rather, as a follower of Jesus, I’m wanting to argue in a way that reflects the goodness of God.
Tell you what. If you’re pretty sure we disagree on an issue important to you, then test me out. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
I mean it. Anybody want a peanut?
Sorry, couldn’t resist. Drop me a line, I’ll buy the coffee, and oh … rock on.
Ethan Moore is the pastor of Trinity Church in Edwards. He and his wife Lisa have lived in the valley since 1995. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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