“It’s the game of life and there are two teams: God’s and Satan’s.” And then the young seminary student leaned forward in the pulpit and raised his voice for emphasis: “Whose side are you on? AMEN!”
What kind of question was that? Sitting in a pew about halfway back in the sanctuary, we looked around at the congregation of Christians. We wondered what seminary professor had approved that sermon from this energetic second year student. That dramatic, misguided ending must have been a late addition.
Taking sides is a common human activity. Many people hold the viewpoint of “us against them” on a multitude of topics. This division is self-evident in a political system, but the politics of choosing sides can invade any organization or group or company.
I have witnessed these divisive actions in schools, in companies, and in churches. Sometimes the purpose was simply to stir the pot and create chaos. More often the goal was improving one’s position of importance and achieving control and power.
How do we as leaders handle conflicts and divisive situations like these, especially when they threaten to destroy our goals and objectives? When they are a threat to the foundation of our family, organization, or company? We can long for the Lord’s decisive intervention when the earth opened and swallowed Korah’s faction against Moses (Numbers 16:32). But that’s not going to happen.
As leaders we need to be firm about keeping certain incendiary topics out of the workplace, church, or household. Those who insist on creating chaos need to be dealt with firmly. Nothing will be accomplished if we are constantly putting out fires or mediating squabbles.
But sometimes it’s obvious that no matter what we say or do, that person or group isn’t going to change their behavior. The Lord Jesus recognized the reality of this kind of opposition when He said, “Whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). When my husband as pastor of a congregation faced these harmful troublemakers, he offered them the choice of ending their campaign or finding another church where they would be happier. He wasn’t about to sacrifice the wellbeing of his congregation.
Other times we attempt to heal divisions by bringing people together to iron out their differences. I used that approach with my quarrelsome young children. I made them sit on opposite ends of the couch until they could reconcile their differences. I hoped they could find something to agree about, even if it was their mutual desire to get back to playing. I wanted them to find common ground.
Even if two people or parties don’t share the same beliefs or opinions on most subjects, we can appeal to their shared interest, their common ground: the security, strength, health and well- being of our company, school, organization, or church. Hopefully this is something they can agree on, something they truly care about.
Amid all this struggle, it’s important to remember that our common ground, no matter what our other beliefs may be, is the same place. At the foot of the cross. No matter what our position, we all have equal status – sinners.
And fortunately, we have been given equal status by our Lord Jesus: forgiven children who have much better things to do than to keep up our divisions. There is so much to enjoy and share about the life we have in Him.
Ultimately, it’s not about our own position or opinion. It’s not about our own status or power. We know Whom we serve: our Lord Jesus. He’s the One who is not just on our side, He’s also by our side!