Q: What do The Beatles, my parents, and the ’94 Lakers have in common?
A: They couldn’t stay together. They all broke up. They just couldn’t make it work.
This is not abnormal. This is the natural state of things. Shaq and Kobe could’ve dominated for a decade, but they couldn’t stand each other anymore. The Beatles told us that all we need is love, but then they couldn’t take it anymore and they broke up screaming.
Things fall apart.
My parents? Like millions of Americans, they got divorced. That marriage is hard shouldn’t be a surprise. Anything that starts with you taking a vow in front of hundreds not to quit…?
Yeah – that’s a sign it’s going to be hard.
In fact, staying together at anything is hard. Sure, bands (think about it: “band” means they’re bound together) like, say, Eagles or The Police can get back together for a big moneymaking reunion tour, but the tension on stage is palpable.
There’s an old song called, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” and it’s got a point. But you know what’s harder? Staying together.
Every utopian project in the history of humankind has failed. Disintegration isn’t remarkable. Entropy isn’t remarkable. Disunity isn’t remarkable.
Unity is remarkable.
This is why I want to ask my fellow professing Christians to do something downright shocking in today’s online environment: Be radically charitable to your Christian brothers and sisters.
Be downright deferential. Consider them better than you. Demonstrate love in every interaction.
Do not insult their intelligence. Do not mock them. Do not presume them to be beneath your sophistication. Assume the best of their intentions. Do not belittle them. If you want to engage their ideas and disagree, do so. This needn’t stop reasoned debate. But let kindness mark every exchange. Let it start with kindness, and end with kindness.
1. The world is watching us, and they would be freaked out. If we actually modeled this, it would be a bolt of stunning grace from the blue. No one expects this. No one else is doing it. People would wonder how it is that we could possibly get along. What’s making them stick together? They clearly disagree with each other, yet they are so loving even when they are debating…? What gives?
Everything else falls apart. So why don’t they?
2. Jesus said unity is what will prove to the world that we belong to Him. This is the very hallmark of who we are. Not our enlightened bumper stickers, not our issue-of-the-day tweets, not our big church stage shows.
(In fact, a friend of mine had the temerity to suggest that perhaps we like big stage shows and political posturing and debating other issues so much precisely because we are failing so bitterly at Jesus’ priority of unity. She might be on to something.)
You see, if we don’t fall apart, we’re very strange indeed. Something supernatural surely must be at work. It’s like we’re defying gravity. How is it possible?
Unity forged on absolute agreement is not supernatural. But if we genuinely disagree, even vehemently disagree, yet model love and deference in all of our public and private communications, well, that’s another thing entirely. What could possibly explain that?
Who are these weirdos who love like that?
I propose we all model this immediately. Again, this isn’t rendering issues unimportant. This isn’t short-circuiting debate. It’s simply shaping how we do it.
Look, I’m a logic machine. I think quickly. (A doctor friend of mine laughingly said he wants to avoid arguments with me, for fear of again being “logically pummeled.”) But if I have not love, I’m a bunch of noise.
Things fall apart, but it’s love that endures.
As brutal as social media is, that’s where people are. Instead of using it to tear each other to shreds for the benefit of our political allies, maybe we could use it to demonstrate what a City on a Hill looks like. Disagree with a brother or sister? It will happen. But these people are my family above all.
After all, if someone else calls Jesus “Lord” in this culture, it means something. Twenty years ago, it may not have meant so much. But acknowledging that there is a King who transcends us, and it’s Jesus of Nazareth – that’s a big deal. If we agree on that, we may not vote together, but we can sing together and pray together and talk together.
And eventually, we will suffer together.
Let’s change our online approaches right now.
We have a bond that’s deeper than public policy, deeper than our misunderstandings, deeper than our wounds.
Things fall apart. But we don’t have to.
“He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.” – Paul, Colossians 1:17