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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

For years, I was baffled about why we have two political parties (in addition to a few smaller ones) that can’t seem to agree on anything. It seems like in congressional vote after congressional vote, the majority of people in the Republican Party vote one way and the majority of people in the Democratic Party vote the other. In Presidential elections, the majority of people who claim to be Republican vote Republican and the majority of people who claim to be Democrat vote Democrat.

I often wondered what would happen if we were somehow able to split this country in two by separating out the Democrats into one country and the Republicans into the other. Would our disagreements be extinguished? Would the people in each country actually be able to live at peace with one another?

Then I began to recognize that the divisiveness of this country isn’t merely drawn on political party lines; our divisiveness runs a whole lot deeper than that. We are divided over race, gender, social class, and athletic teams, just to name a few of the prominent ones. Could we apply my plan to separate people out further and further until we reach a point at which every little subgrouping could live at peace with one another? For example, let say we took all the Caucasian, male, upper class, Buckeye, Republicans and put them in a country together. Would they be able to live at peace with one another? They’d have so much in common; how could they possibly be divided?

You and me and everyone else I know would love to live in a world where we could cut the divisiveness and live at peace with one another. But is peace attainable? And if it is, how do we get there?

What Would a Peaceful World Look Like?

Here’s my vision of what a peaceful world would look like. It’s a world where there aren’t any wars; a world where there’s no crime; a world where there’s no threat of terrorism. We could go about our days without fear that someone is trying to hurt or even kill us.

It’s a world where diverse people get along with one another. The diversity of people on this planet is a great asset to humanity. It would be a place where no one person or group of people are valued more than others based upon one of their characteristics or merits, but a place where everyone’s characteristics and merits are valued equally.

It’s a world where the thought of competing against one another to see who’s the best doesn’t even cross our minds; it’s a world where decisions are reached by consensus; it’s a world where the love we all have for one another outshines both our differences and our insistence on getting our own way.

What’s your vision of a peaceful world? Would you add or subtract anything from mine?

On the whole, we probably all have pretty similar visions of what a peaceful world would look like. So why haven’t we attained it? Why haven’t we reached a point where we are all living at peace with one another?

Can We Attain Peace?

As many of you reading this article know, my go-to authority for dealing with life is the Bible. I have yet to find a life struggle I’m facing that isn’t addressed in the Bible in some way. If you’d like a challenge, I encourage you to come up with a life topic that’s not somehow addressed in the Bible and then send it my way. I’m more than willing to take you up on the challenge.

Let’s take a look at the Bible to see what we can find in there relating to peace and division.

According to Paul, the writer of Galatians, one of the fruits of the Spirit is peace and one of the fruits of the flesh is division.[1] What does he mean by fruit? A common metaphor used throughout the Bible when referring to people is that they are plants. All healthy plants bear fruit. An apple tree bears apples while a pear tree bears pears. You wouldn’t expect an apple tree to bear pears or a pear tree to bear apples. In the same way, the biblical writers claim that people who are truly disciples of Jesus will bear a certain kind of fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, while people who aren’t disciples of Jesus will bear a different kind of fruit, the fruit of the flesh.

According to the Bible, when God first created human beings, they were made as trees which bore fruit of the Spirit. But when they sinned against God, their trees were transformed into trees which only bore fruit of the flesh. The bad seeds were passed along to their children and their children’s children and so on.

After “the fall,” it didn’t take humans long to begin creating divisions amongst themselves. In the second generation of humans, when there were only a small handful of people on the earth, one of them was a farmer and another was a shepherd. The farmer got angry because his brother, the shepherd, seemed to have more favor with God than him. So he rose up against his brother and killed him.

Humanity has a long history dating all the way back to the first humans to walk on the face of the earth of divisiveness amongst one another rather than peace. Certainly there have been times throughout history when peace was attained to some degree or another amongst large groups of people, but it only lasted as long as these groups had a common enemy, an enemy with whom they were not at peace. At no time in history has the entire world been able to experience peace, even for a second.

Is world-wide peace attainable? Only if the fruit of the flesh and its passions are completely destroyed and replaced with the fruit of the Spirit. As long as there is sin and sinners on the earth, we’re going to experience divisions.

How about amongst the small groupings of people I once proposed putting together that had so much in common? Would they be able to experience peace, even amongst themselves? I don’t think so. I think they’d find something over which to divide themselves.

To be super blunt, I have absolutely no hope in humans to attain peace amongst ourselves. We’d have to rid ourselves of all pride and egotism to make it happen. Good luck with that one!

But I still hold out hope for both seeing and experiencing the type of peace I envision.

Where Can Peace Be Found?

How could I possibly have hope for seeing and experiencing peace if I’ve concluded that world-wide peace is unattainable? Great question! I’m glad you asked.

If peace is a fruit of the Spirit, then a place full of the Spirit and devoid of the flesh would be a place where peace is attainable. Is there such a place? Yes, there is: heaven, the place where God dwells. I hold out hope for finding peace with God.

But that’s not the end of the story. I also believe that since the Holy Spirit is in the process of transforming our hearts, I can find peace with some people while I’m here on the earth. This peace will not be found in community with people who share a common enemy, but will be found in community with people who share a common hope: a hope in Jesus. It’s here that our love for one another, a love which comes from God, will be so powerful that it outshines all the little things over which we could be divided. It’s here where we will get a chance to catch a glimpse of the everlasting peace we will one day experience when we are finally able to be with God for the rest of eternity.

[1] For Paul’s lists of the fruit of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit, see Galatians 5:19-23.

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