Americans have become addicted to binary thinking, and it is destroying the fabric of our society. The tendency in America today is to see every issue as black or white, as right or wrong. It is the temptation to view every person as an enemy or an ally. This binary thinking is challenging the capacity of our government to function properly. It is dividing families. It is driving churches into heart-rending schisms and divisions.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses a church that has been fractured by all sorts of disagreements and political alignments. There is brawling among the various factions, and very little understanding about the organic nature of the church: the fact that various people bring different gifts that make the whole stronger than the sum of the parts. In the twelfth chapter, Paul addresses these issues with his famous metaphor that compares the church to the human body. He says it clearly: every person is needed, and no one person is superior to another. He then closes the chapter with these words that lead into the famous thirteenth chapter on love: “But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (I Cor. 12: 31)
For Christians, finding a “more excellent way” is mandatory. We are facing enormous challenges in today’s world, and we cannot allow our political and ideological differences to derail us from the call to be transforming influencers in our culture and our world. The fact that we have a humanitarian crisis on our border that involves children, and that isn’t being adequately addressed, is a humiliation and an embarrassment. The great country that, during WWII, mobilized within months to save the world from tyranny, can surely handle a border crisis. Regardless of which side of the aisle a legislator is on, our political leaders should come together to find a “more excellent way” to live out our shared biblical mandate to care for those who are most vulnerable. We can do that while also fulfilling the obligation to protect our borders.
Beginning with our President and including every Republican, Democrat, or Independent political leader, there should be a shared commitment to finding “a more excellent way” of engaging in political and ideological discourse. Outstanding and thoughtful leaders can find candid language that challenges their opponents without even coming close to language that inflames or sounds bigoted. Whether it comes from the mouth of a junior legislator, or from the President, or from you or me, language that even hints at racism or bigotry should be condemned. This is a Christian and moral standard we should all hold ourselves to.
Americans are at our best when we transcend our differences rather than settling into them. That is what has defined every great moment in our history. Christians don’t have a choice about this: we are called to a “more excellent way” in all that we say and do. As flawed human beings, we inevitably fail, and we are forgiven, but we don’t get to take a pass simply because the culture around us has become crude and hateful. Our first loyalty is always to the “more excellent way” that is mandated by our biblical faith. If we do not hold ourselves accountable to that ideal, we will all find ourselves picking up the pieces of a great country that we helped to destroy.
Rev. Don Underwood