Segregating ourselves

April 4th, 2016
Maria Skobtsova

America is increasingly becoming a nation of great divides. We remain far too divided in terms of race relationships decades after the passage of the civil rights agreement. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is threatening to split churches and communities. We are deeply divided over immigration and U.S. border-control policy. Across the board, politics are increasingly rancorous and unproductive. The Pew Research Forum issued the report “Political Polarization in the American Public” in July 2014. Perhaps not too surprisingly Pew noted that ideological division between Republicans and Democrats was deeper and more extensive than at any point in the last two decades. The report indicated that a large percentage of party members from both sides went beyond simply “disliking” the other party, with 27 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans seeing the opposing party as an actual “threat to the nation’s well-being.” Worse yet, this report was written before the current, very divisive presidential campaign season was even launched!

What is it within us that perpetuates this desire to be separate from those unlike ourselves both in our homes and in our churches? I wonder how many of us could only retort with the “Good fences make good neighbors” line, long memorialized in one of my favorite Robert Frost poems “The Mending Wall,” if asked point blank. Yet if we truly claim to answer Jesus’ call to “follow me,” we no longer have the luxury of isolation from our sisters and brothers. We must broaden our definition of “neighbor.”

Scripture makes it clear that diversity, of all types, is a kingdom value. On the birthday of the church, the Day of Pentecost, the diversity of the known world was present: “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. . . . Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.” (Acts 2:5, 9–11).

Our recent Easter celebrations should have reminded us that Jesus’ death and resurrection were all about restoring right relationship with God and with each other. Maria Skobtsova, an Orthodox Christian nun and true servant of Christ, understood that there could be no distinction of worth or worthiness made across all of God’s people. Mother Maria’s practice of this theology led to her being martyred by the Nazis in the Ravensbruck concentration camp after she was arrested for helping Jews in Paris. Maria Skobtsova’s theology was encapsulated in her brief credo: “Each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world.”

What would happen if all of us took seriously Jesus’ mandate: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)?

Mike Slaughter is the almost four-decade chief dreamer and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike’s call to "afflict the comfortable" challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. His newest book is The Christian Wallet: Spending, Giving, and Living with a Conscience.

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