What can Christ-followers do in a culture polarized between left and right? In Los Angeles, an anti-Trump protester yelled, “We have to fight back. There will be casualties on both sides.” Sides. Division. Verbal wars. These words describe the mindset of the dog-eat-dog world. Far too many see no way of escape from it.
Those not sharing our faith increasingly see the Church—if they even think about it—as marginalized, impotent, irrelevant. Those of us in the Church, like David’s friends, may complain, “The foundations of law and order have collapsed,” and ask: “What can the righteous do?" (Ps 11:3, NLT).
What Can We Do?
There is, of course, no instant fix for crumbling foundations. The Church, however, can shine light into the darkness that surrounds those who stumble and collide in their efforts at repair. In his new command (Jn. 13:34), Jesus told us how those in the world will come to know we are, as we claim to be, his disciples: by our loving each other in the way he has loved us.
Could it be that the world sees the Church as a sidelined subculture because we have not lived out that kind of love for fellow believers? What might begin to occur if we were truly to authenticate our identity as Christ-followers in the way he instructs us? What if the world could watch as a colony of ordinary human beings live out the unity of heaven here on earth?
One of Webster’s definitions of politics is “the total complex of relations between people living in society.” For many people, relationships between left and right in that complex must always involve bruising conflict. There is, however, one society in the world in which left-right clashes are not inevitable: the Body of Christ.
Left and Right Members
To the Apostle Paul the human body, with its various members, provides a way for us to understand the Body of Christ. Any human body has both left and right members—eyes, ears, feet, hands, and so on. But in a properly functioning human body, left and right members never work at odds with each other. Instead of choosing sides, they operate side by side. They do not compete; they cooperate. Each supplies a strength and a perspective the other lacks.
In the Body of Christ, what explains the harmony between left-members and right-members? Each is directly connected with and responsive to the Head. Whenever the situation calls for action, Christ the Head has a single purpose. Members on both the left and the right work together to carry out that one aim.
We Need Practice
Shared church is all about working together. Like the world, the Body of Christ includes members with diverse viewpoints, gifts, and backgrounds. Unlike the world, all are equipped to respond to the one unifying Head. But in what setting may we practice working and speaking in agreement with one another?
Too often our traditional ways of gathering on, say, Sunday mornings rule out authentic one-anothering. We come together as audiences rather than as bodies with interacting members—passive watchers instead of active participants. Rarely, if ever, does the meeting format allow left-members and right-members the opportunity to speak and listen to each other in the way of I Cor. 14:26— “When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight” (The Message).
Jesus asked his Father to grant that we might “be brought to complete unity,” experiencing the same oneness they have enjoyed throughout eternity (Jn. 17:23). Those words, “be brought to,” suggest that arriving at this unity will not come about instantaneously. It will take practice, exercise, rehearsal. Where can we develop, and demonstrate that right-member/left-member unity if we do not do so when we come together as shared church?
Left-member/right-member unity in the Body of Christ exploded into the world in the first century. The divided world is waiting for it to happen again.