I’ve been reading this new book called the “The Space Between Us” by Sarah Bauer Anderson. I saw it on Instagram and the subtitle of the book is what really caught my attention and made me buy the book. The subtitle is, “How Jesus Teaches Us to Live Together When Politics and Religion Pull Us Apart”. Quite honestly my first thought was that someone in the marketing department at the publishing company needs a raise. I’m not sure that there has been a time in American history where that statement could have been more relevant then it is today.
My second thought was how badly I yearn for a time when the tension we are all feeling from what divides us goes away, and we can begin to Live Together. Living Together doesn’t mean we all become the same people, we would still have different ideas and thoughts. We would however be able to look beyond those differences that divide us, and see the people we don’t always get along with as someone created in the image of God who we have a lot more in common with then we might realize.
I can’t say that I have ever found myself in a conversation I would consider to be uncomfortable or heated about politics or religion, either online or in-person. I imagine I am not the only one who would say that. However, we have all witnessed, read, heard of or been in the middle of an uncomfortable conversation around those subjects. So we all feel the tension. We all know something is not the way it should be.
I’m not here to point fingers. I’m here to point to hope.
The book (in full transparency I haven’t finished yet) primarily focuses on relationships amongst families. The author, Sarah Bauer Anderson, is the daughter of Gary Bauer. If that name sounds familiar it is because he ran for President in the Republican Party's primary back in 2000. Her family is full of politicians and pastors, which means their lives revolve around what she describes as “two of the most emotionally charged topics out there”. To make things even more complicated, they don’t all agree on their politics and religion. Talk about a family primed for some tense Thanksgiving dinners.
Sarah, and even her dad who wrote the forward, say their family isn’t perfect. They have their flaws especially considering their family make-up, but overall they do a great job at closing the space between them and Live Together. They are very aware of where they disagree and they don’t avoid those topics. In fact they make a point to have conversations about those disagreements, but their love for one another and the value they place on their family outweighs any disagreements they have on policy or differences in their denominations. They don’t have all the answers, but that gives me hope that we can also move beyond our differences and move toward each other.
The more I think about what it will take to bring people together, the more I am convinced that it doesn’t have to take a supernatural occurrence or some world altering event (e.g. the global pandemic). I believe the solution may not be that profound after all, I think it will simply take individuals, like you and me, to go about life living out Matthew 5:9, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
Seems a little too simple doesn’t it? Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’m underestimating the divide. I don’t know. But I do know that all is not lost. I know that God is a big God. I know that no disagreement between us is too big for God. I know that at the end of the day God wins. I also know that if each of us attempted to live out Matthew 5:9 we won’t be worse off. Surely more peacemakers among us will help, right?
I want to leave on a practical note. Matthew 5:9 is great, but what does that look like in 2020? Rich Mullins, one of my favorite Christian artists ever, released the song “Brothers Keeper” in 1995. The whole song is great, but there is a section I want to highlight today:
My friends ain't the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are
And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will, I will be my brother's keeper
I’m not trying to suggest it’s easy. I’m not trying to over simplify anything. But if we want something to change, we have to do something different. Sometimes we have to take the first step and not wait for someone else. We have to show the love, grace, mercy and compassion that we receive daily from God, who so willingly gives it to us when we don’t deserve it. My friends ain’t the way I wish they were, they are just the way they are, and I’ve got to love them anyways.