I was more than shocked. I was grieved. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. There on Facebook was a forwarded post from a church member that featured a racially charged message about our nation’s president. The words were biased, bigoted, disrespectful and patently untrue.
Regardless of your political persuasion, respect is a glue that holds the thin veneer of society and, yes, even our churches, together. No true community, no resolution of conflict, no lasting agreement, can survive without it.
Yet social media has brought disrespect right up in our face. And membership in a local Adventist church is apparently no antidote for boorish attitudes and behavior. When issues strike a nerve, we are just as likely as anyone to scurry toward a digital corner with like-minded folks. Surrounded by a cloud of supportive witnesses, it’s easy to lob missiles — verbal or otherwise — from a safe and often anonymous distance.
Frankly, we are resorting to tribalism. What is your tribe? Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, liberal, conservative, libertarian, fundamentalist, young-age creationist, old-age creationist, male headship, feminism? Perhaps your tribe is simply an immediate peer group, the ones you hang out with. The unfortunate thing about tribes is, while they promote a sense of belonging and camaraderie within their small confines, they also create an exclusive domain tightly shut to any other perspectives.
Challenges with this in the Middle East are legion. In some areas there are major tribal confederations and dozens upon dozens of subtribes. There are Shiites and Sunnis and mixtures between the two. The members of these tribes roam their fiefdoms with more allegiance to tribal law than to any other authority.
This is happening here — and not just in the political realm. Within our churches, well-meaning members carve out a narrow interpretation of Scripture beyond our common core beliefs. They make their perspectives a test of faith and fellowship for everyone else. The urge to “cry aloud and spare not” bursts forth and too often leads to the impuning of characters and motives. How we as the body of Christ deal with our differences speaks volumes about our relationship with Jesus.
So, step back for a moment and take a deep cleansing breath. Tribalism among us plays directly into the hand of the enemy of souls — our souls. He is delighted when our common mission is diminished and darkened by disrespect. He wins when our individual opinions eclipse the Son.
Ellen White counsels us toward humility of spirit and action. “God calls for light bearers who will fill the world with the light and peace and joy that come from Christ. God will use humble men, men who will cherish a sense of their weakness, who will not think that the work of God depends on them. Such men will remember what the service of God demands from them — the propriety of speech and action that God calls for.”
At the close of all things, tribal lines and loyalties won’t matter. God will call His people from every kindred, tribe and nation.
If then, why not now?