Together as ‘One’

We are excited to be able to finally gather together as a church body for worship again this weekend, after more than two months apart. We will still not fully be together, since we will be having three worship services over the weekend to spread everyone out for healthy distance requirements. Plus, many in our body are still not yet ready to end their quarantine, for health reasons or other concerns.

But we are at least moving in the right direction, we hope, and we are praying that the Lord will continue to protect us from this virus, as well as from the division that it has stirred up in many circles. 

In fact, because there are so many differing opinions about where things stand, and because this whole pandemic has magnified the divisive rhetoric that was already present in our nation and world, I have been thinking of a solution for keeping the peace when it comes to the novel coronavirus.  Here’s my plan.

Everyone should just give themselves a number which would define their opinion of the risk of the COVID pandemic and whether we should continue to quarantine. A number “1” would mean you have no concern at all about the virus, you probably think it’s all a conspiracy or a hoax, and you think it probably has something to do with bringing the president down. A number “10” means that this is the end of the world as we know it, we should all be in lockdown until 2022, and it all probably has something to do with the failure of the president. 

This means the people you listen to, the news channels you watch, and the articles and blogs you read, are likely to agree with your presuppositions, and form a nice little echo chamber that sounds a lot like what your opinions already are. Anyone outside of that bubble is an extremist (or an idiot) and not worth listening to.

Somewhere in the middle is a sliding scale of opinion, and you have to decide where you come down on the continuum. Most people think they are an open-minded “5”, balancing out all those extremists, though many are actually on either fringe, somewhere between a 1-3, or an 8-10. So it might help if we asked those around us to assign us our number, based on our outspoken comments, expert opinions and social media posts.

Just think about how much easier it would be if everyone just had a number. Maybe we could wear our number on a name tag to identify ourselves, or put it in the corner of our Facebook profile picture. That way the 10’s and 1’s could make sure they never even got around each other–that is, if the 10’s ever left their house to begin with. Instead of ranting on social media, people could just post their number, and we would predictably know what they would have posted anyway, which would save us all the time having to watch their videos or read their slanted articles (if they don’t agree with what we already believe).

It’s not like anyone is ever going to convince someone else who doesn’t already believe like them to change their minds. And it’s exhausting to be condescending all the time, yelling at one another. We could just categorize all those who don’t believe like us as uninformed nuts, science haters, tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists, fear-mongering socialists or whatever other label we can put on them so we don’t have to talk to them any more.

And we can all live happily ever after. Well, except for the global pandemic.

Okay, I jest. Sort of.

To be honest, the thing that has bothered me the most about this entire pandemic is the division it has fostered and the way people are treating each other. Educated and informed people, exposed to the same data, come down with different opinions, largely dependent on who they are counting on to interpret that data, or their risk-aversion to begin with. Then they disparage and categorize those who don’t think like them.

Of course, social media is feeding much of this, with all the irrational shouting, even between fellow believers. The lines are drawn: either you are reckless because you don’t care about killing grandma, or you don’t care about destroying the economy–as if there’s not a middle ground where we can work together. Can’t we all just get along?

That’s my prayer more than anything these days, for unity in the body of Christ, even in the midst of our “diversity.” Whether you believe like I do or not; whether you diligently wear your mask in public, or purposely don’t even own one; whether you have lost your job in the shutdown or are “essential” and haven’t missed a day of work; whether you think we’re moving too quickly to reopen our church services, or too slowly….we need to come together around that which unifies us, and that is our common bond in Jesus Christ.

And when we sincerely do that, one of the first signs will be our genuine humility instead of pride and arrogance. That will reveal itself in our willingness to admit that we don’t know all the answers, and in how we treat others with whom we disagree. Those who are humbly submitted to Christ won’t need to talk down to anyone, and will realize that the world can survive without our getting our two cents in. 

This crazy season presents to the church an opportunity to display the unified family we were intended to be. Not that we all have to agree on the issues, whether they be on politics or a pandemic–but that we are one as a body of believers. It is good to remember the words that Jesus prayed for us in the Garden of Gethsemane, on His way to the cross:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-I in them and you in me-so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

We don’t have to be a 1, a 5, or a 10….but we do need to be “one” in Christ. That’s my prayer for all of us as we gather together in His name this week. In the mean time, please continue to be careful, be safe, be humble and be faithful. I am grateful for you, my church family, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

–Pastor Ken