US VERSUS THEM
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, July 5, 2020.
Growing up in Scotland in the 1970's, I experienced many conflicts:
The unions went on strike against government policies. I spent several evenings doing homework by flashlight because the electric workers went out.
Ireland was deeply divided by militias fighting for or against the British government. There was deep hatred between Roman Catholics and Protestants. That spilled over into Scotland since Scottish soldiers were sent to Ireland. Even soccer teams were partisan: Celtic were Catholic sand Rangers were Protestants.
At school, I was mocked and rejected by some students for my accent that wasn't Scottish enough. My mom was from London and I had some of her Cockney in my vowels.
My home village was deeply divided between families that lived in council housing and those who bought their homes. The dividing line was Curriehill Road. There was no dating across that divide.
I could go on and on. Conflict was so normal during those years that I never questioned it or wondered what caused it. I simply accepted it as normal.
Now that I know the Bible, I realize two things about conflict: 1) it is not normal and 2) God doesn't like it.
We live in an US vs. THEM world, but we can change that.
As we continue our teaching series on being human, we need to take a close look at the causes of conflict and division. Then, I'd like to discuss some solutions that bring peace.
Before we move ahead, let me remind you why conflict is not normal. When God made humans, there was one man and one woman and they became one flesh. There was one source of life and truth and right and wrong - God. There was one object of worship - God. There was one ethnicity - human. There was one human identity: the image of God. There was one human class/status: first class, equality, great worth and dignity. There was one human purpose - to rule over the world and to take care of it for God.
Everything was united. Everyone was united. What in the world went wrong?
THE CAUSES OF CONFLICT AND DIVISION
There are four causes of conflict and division in the world today and we see them illustrated in Genesis 3. After the devil deceived Adam and Eve into rejecting God, conflict began immediately:
(Genesis 3:8-13) Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Did you notice all the conflicts? Let me list them:
There was internal conflict: the man and woman realized they were naked and that tells us they felt shame about their bodies. They felt vulnerable and judged by others. Result: shame, self-hatred.
There was conflict with God: They hid from him because they knew that he knew that they had disobeyed him. Result: Fear and anxiety.
There was conflict with the each other: the man blamed his wife. Result: war in every form.
There was conflict with Satan: the woman blamed the serpent. Result: captivity, deception, oppression.
These four conflicts are still raging today. Every division, fight, war, hatred, feud, assault, and riot, is the result of that fateful day.
My analysis is true. We see life as us versus them. Conflicts are everywhere. We evaluate everyone and ask, do they look like me, do they belong in my group, do they vote my way, do they believe like me? God loves diversity but we use it to divide. We may think it's normal and good, but it's neither; it's sin and Satan winning.
THERE IS NO HUMAN SOLUTION TO CONFLICT
Sin and Satan cannot be defeated by any human solution that I know of. There is no way for us to bring true and lasting peace because we ourselves are a major part of the problem.
We all know that politics is not the solution. Armies do not bring long-term peace, nor do the police. The United Nations does not unite nations. Education stirs the pot. Business doesn't produce peace. Preaching can't do it. These may some have positive benefits, but they don't bring lasting peace.
What is the solution to an US vs. THEM world?
JESUS IS THE ULTIMATE PEACEMAKER
God's mission is to bring peace on the earth. His method is to destroy sin and dethrone Satan. His man is the Lord Jesus Christ and his means is the cross.
Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. He establishes peace by fighting for it on four fronts. Let's explore those now:
1. THE PRAYERS OF JESUS - John 17:22-23.
In John 17, Jesus prayed for unity among his followers:
(John 17:22-23) I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 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.
God lives in the perfect oneness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That's why Jesus prays that we will be one, united, and peaceful, people.
2. THE CROSS OF JESUS - Ephesians 2:11-21
When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, the biggest divide in the world was between Jews and everyone else. Their regulations about racial and ritual purity kept the Jews separated and segregated from everyone. That all changed at the cross of Christ:
(Ephesians 2:15-16) His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
At the cross, Jesus destroyed the divide. He created one new humanity and killed our hostility.
3. THE CHURCH OF JESUS - Ephesians 4:1-6.
God designed the church to model peace to the world.
(Ephesians 4:1-6) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The church is the true united nations in which separate peoples having been made one in Christ, work hard to live in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Every ethnicity. Every language. Every background. But only one church because there is only one Jesus and we are all his body.
4. THE KINGDOM OF JESUS - Isaiah 9:6-7
The prophet Isaiah predicted world peace. We believe Jesus is the King whose government will make it happen:
(Isaiah 9:6-7) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Where is this Kingdom of Peace? Today, it is in the heart of everyone who bows the knee to King Jesus. When he returns to the earth, peace will reign everywhere. There will be no more conflict because there will be no more sin or Satan.
Christians are responsible to resolve conflicts and to make peace, not only in our personal relationships but also in our community and even nationally or globally. I do not believe we are to sit back and leave it all to Jesus. Here are some ways to make peace a reality:
1. PRAY FOR PEACE - Matthew 6:9-10.
(Matthew 6:9-10) Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
2. BE THE PEACE - Romans 12:18.
(Romans 12:18) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
(Colossians 3:8-11) You must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
3. MAKE PEACE - Matthew 5:9
(Matthew 5:9) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
The ultimate solution to conflict is a new heart and a fresh start that only Jesus is able to provide. So, let's continue to share Jesus with as many as we can.
There is more that we must do, however. Peace cannot thrive where people are badly treated or hungry or denied their human rights.
Look at the artwork on the south wall of our church auditorium. The three panels contain the text of Micah 6:8:
(Micah 6:8) He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
The best moments in church history have been when Christians have worked together to make the world a better, safer, fairer place for everyone.
I recommend reading two books that have influenced me greatly on the need to work together for a better world for everyone are:
Good News about Injustice by Gary Haugen, the founder of the International Justice Mission.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative
CONCLUSION: PRAY ABOUT IT
As we wrap things up today, consider how to apply today's teaching.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to apply this teaching. Get alone with God and listen and do whatever the Spirit tells you.
A while back, I read that before blaming everyone around us for conflict, we should take a moment to admit that we may be part of the problem.
This week, ask the Lord: "Am I part of the problem? Show me what I've done and help me make it right."