You have likely quite often heard some version of the phrase that “what we have in common is much more than that which divides us.” Often it has been uttered in political dialogue, for example in the 1952 concession speech of Adlai Stevenson in his loss to Dwight Eisenhower… “That which unites us as American citizens is far greater than that which divides us as political parties.”
But if ever this phrase had any meaning it is in the realm of theology, especially as it regards the human condition of imputed sin.
Many social commentators of our day bemoan the ethnic and racial divides that continue to plague the American landscape. Here now 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement, one would expect the country to be further down the road of racial reconciliation. Surely there have been multiple gains and successes that can be delineated, yet at the same time the old wounds continue to fester and feelings of disenfranchisement remain raw in many segments of our society. The immigration debate looms large in national discourse; and Christian people rightly find themselves conflicted by national security concerns on one hand, while having a heart of compassion for the plight of people who are risking everything to find some way toward a safe, sustainable and productive life for their families.
In 1971 John Lennon released the popular song “Imagine” … striking a chord upon the hearts of people who would like to imagine a world of peace and tranquility, where all the varied peoples of the world would live in brotherhood and harmony. Sadly, his prescription involved the denial of heaven, hell, God or religion. If answers for true brotherhood could be found in irreligious harmony, surely that would have been discovered by now! But the natural condition of man apart from spiritual renewal in Christ tends very heavily toward self-centeredness, not brotherly affection. Remember Cain and Abel?
What we need is a common denominator that is bigger than the uncommon numerators that divide us. And in fact, we all begin with and possess a common denominator – the issue of inherited and imputed sin that comes down to us, landing in our personal account as a debt at the moment of our conception. It does not matter if we are white, black, green or purple, we all are born with a debt of sin. That is common denominator #1. And it expresses itself in all sorts of divides between people and people groups.
But the wonderful truth is that Jesus came and took upon himself our common denominator, yet did so in a way that he did not inherit the debt of sin. Paying that debt by his death on the cross, he offers to us a new common denominator of a family relationship with him through faith in what he has done. If you are white, black, green or purple, it does not matter. Trust in him and you now possess a common denominator that is indeed bigger than that which divides and is massively and categorically superior to any “alleged” denominator the world can ever provide, no matter how well-intentioned and altruistic it is.
And having that second denominator also guarantees a third for those of faith in Christ, and that is the assurance of eternal life together with the Son in heaven, forever … with peoples of every tribe and nation. That is pretty amazing! And just as we should rightly realize that, as the Scriptures say, “Now we are the children of God,” indeed we even now possess eternal life. Death is a comma, not a period. We then move on to a new dimension of eternal life in God’s presence.
So, why should we only live in community with the different tribes and nations over there? If we have life both there AND here, why don’t we choose to also live in the here and now with those who are ethnically different than us? Again, why do we have to wait for eternity to see this transpire? Why don’t we do it here? Why don’t we model for the world what the world claims it wants to see? If we did that, they wouldn’t have to “imagine” what it would be like, all they’d have to do is look at the church of Jesus Christ. Come on! Let’s do that at TSF!