The divide in our nation was highlighted this past month as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. For some, this decision has brought celebration in the protection of an unborn baby. For others, it is cause for lament at the loss of choice and protection for women. We have seen outrage online, demonstrations in our communities, and great anger towards the people who think and believe differently than we may on the Supreme Court’s decision.
We have been saying for weeks that the story of Jonah is much more than just a fish tale. Many of us have grown up knowing nothing more than Jonah spending three days in the stomach of great fish. The story of Jonah centers around a ‘prophet of God’ who would rather die than see the people of Ninevah experience God’s mercy. Jonah gets angry with God when God chooses to spare Ninevah from destruction. Because they look differently, speak differently, worship differently, and live differently, Jonah thinks they are fit for destruction. God, on the other hand, sees that they are created in his image and loved.
We can be tempted to think like Jonah.
We see “the other” and believe that since they look, speak, worship, and live differently from us that they are somehow “less than.” We see this on a global scale in how nations look at other nations, but we also see it in the ways with which we speak and treat those who are different from us. We may believe the worst about immigrants. We may fail to stand with the oppressed because we believe that they have done something to deserve the way they are being treated. In the case of the Supreme Court’s decision, I’ve seen many Christians name-calling and ending friendships because they do not agree. Whether we realize it or not, we are treating brothers and sisters like “the other” rather than part of our Christian family.
Christians are not monolithic in our beliefs. While we likely agree on more than we disagree on, we also have a wide range of beliefs and understandings. This is why we have many denominations. As Christians, we are all part of the family of God. Our unity is not found in our political or social beliefs, it is found around the Gospel of Jesus. We are called to love those we disagree with. The twelve disciples that spent three years with Jesus did not agree on everything. Levi, the tax collector, and Simon the Zealot likely had a lot of interesting conversations. Levi worked for Rome and would have been seen as a traitor. Simon the Zealot was part of a nationalistic group seeking to overthrow Rome (and probably seen as a terrorist in our vernacular). Jesus brought them together to show that our differences must be set aside to fulfill the mission of the Gospel.
As we live in an ever-increasingly polarized world, let us not forget the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.
If I speak in the tongues n of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, u but do not have love, I gain nothing.
If we cannot love one another, then our faith and our good works will be meaningless. In all that we do, let us humbly seek to show the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ to both our friends and those who might be described as our enemies. Let us rejoice in God’s mercy for all who receive it. Let us find our unity in Jesus and the mission that Jesus has given us in the world.