A house divided cannot stand. Abraham Lincoln used these words in 1858 to address the increasingly problematic issue of slavery in the United States. Within a couple years he would be president and preside over the Civil War that this issue occasioned. Perhaps many are unaware that Lincoln took these words from Jesus, as quoted in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus was responding to accusations of possessing satanic powers in performing the healing a blind mute who he allowed to see and speak. So much of our ministry is designed to help us see things which have been hidden and to speak a truth that needs to be heard.
We live in a time of perilous division. It is as if we have constructed separate realities between left and right. One can only hope there is some way through this deep divide, a place where the lion can lie down with the lamb, the hawk can soar with the dove and each of us can see each other’s value. A house divided cannot stand and the church needs to help people behold and speak a deeper truth.
It is not only our politics and culture that are divided. We are also divided within ourselves. We have areas that don’t speak to each other and are not aware of each other. We find ourselves cut off from our feelings, we are surprised by our reactions and overwhelmed by our own persecutory thoughts. One day we feel bound by obligation and the next day we are paralyzed by our freedom. Oh, wretched mortal, who will deliver us?
St. Paul writes in Corinthians that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God and God’s wisdom seems foolish to this world. Somehow in the foolishness of a crucified messiah, Paul finds his life united, healed and profoundly repurposed. He lives the rest of his life trying to bring this strange elixir of faith to the rest of the world. Instead of finding victims and weeding out evil, he becomes committed to a non-binary view of the world, where unity overcomes estrangement. Indeed, Paul writes, now there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Greek nor Jew, but all are one. These are radical ideas in his day and set a radical precedent for us to adapt to our own situation.
Healing and unity come when heaven and earth are joined, and God is found in the weak and rejected. As Paul challenges the hegemony of the world systems of philosophy, politics and economics, he develops his thinking from his personal experience - and breaks down divisions and creates possibilities for a universal community. Each small church becomes a beachhead and outpost for this inbreaking of God’s reign. In each of these sacred communities, love, forgiveness and communion are to be practiced, people experience restoration, and the world can observe a different organizing principle. Peace is no longer achieved by getting rid of the bad guy, but by communing with the rejected and resurrected one. Of course, this is foolishness, but this is the foolishness that changes lives and becomes a way forward.
The church is not just another kiosk on the cultural street corner, but rather is to be a light that breaks down divisions and brings the possibilities of healing to individuals, community and culture. The greatest in this Kingdom is the servant of all.