John Adams once said:
There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
This last week has been filled with heart-breaking realities of the current state of our country. In what should have been a celebration of democracy, many of us watched in horror as people stormed the Capitol, interrupting the confirmation of the electoral college vote.
No matter which way you lean, the events of last week are an affront to the foundation of our country. I fully support the right to peacefully protest, but our country has missed the “peaceful” part of protests. I do not believe that it is the masses that move toward riots, rather a small group of individuals who give the group as a whole a bad name. Nevertheless, we have gone from a country of law and order to a country of rioting and lawlessness.
And it breaks my heart.
But why? Why have we become the laughingstock of the world rather than a beacon of freedom?
I believe it is the two-party system that John Adams and George Washington warned of.
Sadly, we are no longer one nation under God. We are no longer Americans. We are Republicans or we are Democrats—and it appears we cannot peacefully coexist. We have lost the vision of who we are together as a country, the vision that together we can face anything. We have become a country deeply divided by ideologies, each side completely convinced it is correct. We can no longer see common ground and use it as a starting point to find what is best for our country collectively. We have become black and white, right and wrong.
And it is destroying our country just as John Adams warned.
But it wasn’t just our founding fathers who warned of the very division we are experiencing today. Jesus himself warned that the division we are experiencing in our country leads to destruction:
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. Matthew 12:25
It will not stand.
We are a divided nation. We are split between polar opposites—and Christians on both sides proclaim theirs is the way of Christ! Our country appears to be on the brink of ruin if we cannot find a way to unite, to put aside the differences in beliefs and find common ground. But how do we move forward? How can we as Christians lead the way to unity?
Examine our own hearts. I know I am guilty of looking at the other side and wondering how they could see things the way they do. Can’t they understand just how wrong they are? But when I let the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, He quietly reminds me that I haven’t lived the same experiences. My perspective is different—not wrong, but different.
I find myself stepping back and attempting to examine my own heart, to focus more on the sin in my own life than what I perceive in others. When my heart is softened because I see the sinful wretch I am, it gives me a different perspective—a perspective that takes a minute to contemplate why someone thinks differently than I do.
Examining my heart also helps me remember that I am a sinner, saved by grace, just like my brother and sister on the other side of the aisle. We have way more in common in this human life than we do differences. Let’s take the time to look at our hearts to discern why we are so hardened to the other side.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23
Listen to those with different opinions. Our country was founded on the principles of bringing together individuals from all walks of life to get the best ideas from the brightest individuals. Do you think the men who wrote our Constitution were in perfect agreement on everything? I truly doubt it.
But they took the time to listen to one another, to recognize the value in what someone else might think. They talked through their differences until they came up with the document that has guided this country for nearly 250 years. They worked together. They found commonalities. And they built on the common ground they found.
Why don’t we take the time to listen—truly listen—to others? Why can’t we listen long enough to hear the pain and the fear behind their words? Why can’t we listen long enough that we find some common ground upon which we can build a solid foundation?
Scripture tell us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). That’s advice that we are working hard to implement in our home. I pray we learn to be quick to listen to those of differing opinions.
Extend grace. No matter what we do, as Christians we are called to extend grace. How did Jesus respond to the woman caught in adultery? He gave grace. What did He say when He was hanging on the cross? He called on the Father to forgive those who crucified Him. How did He respond to the woman who touched the hem of His garment when she was seeking healing? He gave grace. In all His dealings with people, Jesus gave grace.
Aren’t we called to be like Jesus? Doesn’t that include giving grace to those who are different from us? Shouldn’t we learn to extend a hand of grace rather than a fist of disdain?
St Augustine is quoted as saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” I pray this becomes our motto, that we focus on the essentials and find unity, find our common ground. In everything else, I pray we extend the hand of love to our brothers on the other side of the aisle.