If you were to ask me right in this moment what one thing I would really like to see change in the American Church, it would have to be our devotion to the cause of Us vs. Them.
More and more, it sticks in my craw when I am with fellow Christians and the Us. vs. Them talk starts up. Who are Them ?
And so on
That list will look different for different people, but in short, Them are those people who are not Us.
You get into strange conversations with people who always think in terms of Us vs. Them. Try talking with an Evangelical who claims to love Israel yet complains about all the Jews running Hollywood, with its family-unfriendly movies filled with bad language and smutty imagery. Or the folks who go on and on about reaching the lost or ministering to the poor, yet who wish the Mexicans would go back where they came from. The disconnect is head-scratching.
I once had lunch with someone who made no pretenses to being a Christian. When I asked her why she liked living where she did, she said it was because the residents were so tolerant of others, not like those rednecks in the Midwest.
Too many American Christians have that same mentality. Its not only irrational, it’s ugly too. And its a large reason why so many people have tuned out the Church here. They know us by the culture war. They know us by whom we oppose. They have no idea of whom we are for. And if they’ve heard that old ’60s-era song “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love,” they wonder inside when it was ever true. (Maybe back in the ’60s. But then, didn’t we all love each other back in the ’60s?)
Look, there’s not a Christian alive who hasn’t heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. Three-year-old kids who still wet their pants from time to time know that story. How come so little of it ever sinks in? The Us passed by. The Them loved. Jesus smashed the stereotype of Us vs. Them to smithereens in that parable.
Many of the greatest novels ever written contain the archetypal story of the hero who does good because he remembers his roots. He never lets himself forget his humble origins, and that remembering helps him change the world for the better.
I think that one thing Jesus Christ would like to impress upon many American Christians is that each of Us was once Them. And that the people who are most effective for the Kingdom of God are those people who never let themselves forget that truth.
The time of forgetting we were once lost is past, folks. It’s time to start laying down Us to reach Them.
25 thoughts on “Laying Down “Us” to Reach “Them””
You tell ’em, Dan!
I think I already did, Michael!
Yeah! Well, um…tell ’em more!!! 🙂
I think this is about the old saying unsaved people give about Christians, “They’re too judgemental.”
There is an area where Christian practice and belief merge that many miss the mark. Its the merging of mercy/love and not condoning sin.
But Christians are so frequently taught that life, the bible and God are so absolutely black and white. While in many cases that is true on a macro level, the practice of that in the micro is something totally different.
I keep coming back to maturity, maturity, maturity. Not that maturity is “grow up and stop being judgmental.” That would be me doing what I am accusing others of doing.
The maturity I’m thinking about is the ability for the believer to hold to apparent opposite things — mercy, not condoning sin (just an example) — and still see the overriding purpose and commission of God.
For me black and white thinking is akin to the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It is a lower order of thinking.
Your statement about managing paradox is a good one.
I Cor. 6:11–And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
And to keep Petra’s lyrcis in the discussion on this blog, “Without Him we Can Do Nothing” from Never Say Die:
Do you remember what he called you out of?
Do you remember where you were?
Dan, if we could shift from the us vs them argument, many churches would lose their entire purpose for existing. Sadly, so many churches are built upon identifying themselves by what they are against, than ever being identified with Christ.
Several years ago, (longer now than I care to think about) I had a gentleman in one of my churches make the following remark “It was so much simpler until you brought this whole idea of love and forgiveness into the church, I want to go back to when we knew who we were, and definitely who we weren’t and life was easier” Over my time in that small congregation, I watched this gentelman change dramatically, to the point of moving beyond understanding about love and forgiveness, and actually making a life change.
The pastors I followed in that particular set of three churches, had actively cultivated an understanding of identlty and purpose for individuals and the church, that was based soley on what and who they stood against.
Now on to the bigger question, and that is how do we overcome this? When so many people and churches understand righteous living to be based on Us Vs Them: we can no longer respond as we have in the past, or we fall prey to the very same trap.
Have you ever read what I wrote about Externally Motivated Christianity and Internally Motivated Christianity? The Externally Motivated is most definitely Us vs. Them and that largely defines American Evangelicalism of the last 30 years. So yes, a lot of churches would fall apart if they lost their reason for crusading against Them.
LOL.. about that Midwest Redneck comment.. I heard it said years ago that the only thing that is intolerant to some who preach tolerance is intolerance.
Yeah, I couldn’t believe she said it—and with a straight face too.
So true! My daughter is in college studying the arts, and thus knows many gays, who are some of the nicest, most caring people she’s ever met. Much nicer to her by eons than the Christian Campus Life kids she knew in high school who pretty much shunned her. I also work at a Christian institution of higher learning, and it’s one of the most negative, uncaring places I’ve ever worked. They know their doctrine, know what they are against, and pretty much blame gays, liberals, well, your list above, for everything that is wrong in the world. I think it would be a huge shock to them to discover that God loves all those people, too!
People of the world are often more loving. I still don’t get that exactly, but I see it all the time.
Great thoughts Suzanne! I think that many folks who lead Christian institutions are all about the head (i.e. right/wrong & black/white thinking/theology) and are not trained in heart issues like compassion, grace and mercy.
I don’t know what the problem is, exactly, but it’s ugly and they don’t get it at all. They smugly spend their days gloating in the fact that “we” are so much better than “them”. There is a constant drumbeat of how blessed we all are to be employed there, because of how bad things are in the outside world, something which most of them have never experienced having spent their entire careers in the confines of the Christian environment. I spent years working in the so-called secular world, and will go back to it as soon as I can find employment (my last job was a victim of the economy). They spin their wheels fighting against an enemy that does not exist, pleased with themselves for doing the Lord’s work.
I think that religious pride is one of the ugliest demonstrations of the flesh Suzanne.. and the beat goes on..
I guess I’m really fortunate. The people in my church are the kindest, lovingest people I have ever met. I give a lot of the credit to the pastor (well obviously God gets all the credit). The pastor is an amazing shepard. Do we have things we could do better? Sure. But we do the caring thing pretty well. And we’re in the darkest part of the dark New England!
And New England can be pretty dark, from what I hear!
I really liked your post.
As you are aware, I am one to believe in the RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS….meaning I believe that all men, women, children, ALL will be saved in their own order in due time (For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: ….1Cor.15:22-23)
The ‘man-made church system’ has a faulty foundation and until one comes out of it they will continue to have a US vs. THEM mentality.
All will be saved….The Lord will lose none of His sheep….and yes these little sheep are all kinds…. spotted, striped, and wrinkled ones….
Whereas the church is content to be the 1% and let the 99% go to Hell….the Lord gives us another answer…and that is that 99 are not enough…for he will go and bring back the 1 till it is home in Father’s house.
This is the REAL GOOD NEWS!
Be blessed my brother,
Dan said: “Jesus smashed the stereotype of Us vs. Them to smithereens in that parable.”
and man built a religious system using Christ’ name and man took the old carnal “Us vs. Them” spirit and built a fictional place called “Hell” for “Them”.
What else is wrong with the message. This is probably as succinct a picture as you can get. Notice the woman eyes as she receive this message of “good news” (sic). They eyes tell the whole story. LOL
We still love you,
Love your enemies, but remember: they are your enemies. They are not your friends.
Loved this of your poem….
“and watch with prayer so neither thorn nor weed
can spring up in a bitter root to choke
revival of the love we sorely need.”
Thanks for recent good topics and not letting this one be hijacked as well.
I had an interesting debate years ago with a friend who told me I saw things only in black and white.
With people, I came to realize over the years, of the great mixture inside. Goodness and harshness is scattered within the hearts of men, saved or not, and once labeling starts then a problem arises.
What happens when you change your mind after realizing some part of your thinking wasn’t quite right?
Does one side have all the answers and the other is totally wrong? True, often the bible does divide clearly into right or wrong.
A few years back I realized that personal behavior modification helped but didn’t perfect me.
I wonder if the problem of being saved initially makes you conceited.
A few scattered thoughts,here.
Hopefully, they make some sense.
I’m a new visitor to this blog. This is the first post I read a couple of days ago, shortly after my husband and I had been speaking of this very thing. We’ve got a great deal of compassion for “them” and have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the mentality in our church. I’ve told him that if we were to continue along the same path we might as well become the new Amish (yes, an implied “them”, but I think they prefer to be “them”) – quaint, noble, but irrelevant to the world at large, unified more by what we’re opposed to than Whose we are.
Anyway, great post. I’ve been thinking about it for days.
Thank you for being a new reader, Laurie. I pray that what I write here will continue to bless you and your husband.