There is much talk in the United States and elsewhere right now about healing the wounds that divide us. And there are plenty of wounds to heal. The racial wound still needs much tending, and the political divide is as strong as I have ever seen it.
Unfortunately, our church body is not immune to the need to experience healing as well. There are differences in the way we live, eat, dress, and worship that some people want to raise to the level of rebellion or evil if someone differs from their point of view.
When we experience great tragedies, I have noticed that our differences often melt away because we have a bigger problem to deal with. I have never seen the United States so united as right after 9/11. The stories told about how people helped each other through that event still inspire me today. It didn’t matter the color of your skin, the way you were dressed, or the job you held — everyone was helping everyone survive that day. I have seen similar behavior when natural disasters hit like hurricanes, tornados, or massive flooding.
The other significant way I have noticed we move beyond our differences is when grace appears. God’s grace not only helps us see how we are forgiven for our shortcomings but allows us to forgive others for the wrongs done to us.
Grace also offers us another tool to aid healing; it helps us keep a clear perspective about differences of opinion. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3, NLT).
I believe this passage also is saying we must leave room for the possibility we are wrong, and someone else might be right.
There were two professors at the seminary when I attended back in the early eighties who were the best of friends. Their families ate lunch together every Saturday (Sabbath). They vacationed and traveled together, celebrated holidays together, and worked side by side for years at Andrews University. Raoul Dederen and C. Mervyn Maxwell loved each other and loved working together. All of us students had great respect for them and their intellect and academic prowess.
What made this friendship so meaningful is they disagreed completely in the area of the nature of Christ, one of the most hotly debated areas of Christology. Many years ago, Ellen G. White implored us that we need to take off our shoes whenever we approach this subject, because we will be "on holy ground."
In other words, perhaps this might be one area we will study throughout eternity with Christ Himself as our professor. Yet these two professors modeled so beautifully to all of us students how you can disagree and still love and respect each other at the same time.
Sharing the Gospel, Living Out Grace
So, church family, I want to proffer two ideas that I believe — if we allow them to permeate our church — will unite us to the point the devil will be running scared. First, while we are not facing an imminent disaster that might unite us, we are in the last days of this world’s history. The great controversy is coming to a climax, and the magnitude of this event should help us keep our focus on the most important things. Now more than ever, the world needs to hear the certainty of the three angels’ messages. The reality of this urgent work should bring us together.
Second, I pray that the same grace spoken in the three angels’ messages will also fill our hearts and minds. The grace that Christ showed on the cross in forgiving all those who had wronged Him is the same grace available to us to put others’ opinions above our own and help us work together in love and harmony, even if we see some things from a different point of view.
May the Lord help us to be those people Christ referred to when He said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, NLT).