Any movie aficionado knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say, “Left Side! Strong Side!” One of my favorite movies of all time is Remember the Titans. This movie chronicles the journey of a small-town Virginia high school football team during the integration of the schools in 1971. As the movie progresses this team goes from an all-white team with a white coach, to a team equally mixed with African-American and white players and an African-American head coach. This process is messy, and divisive. Bricks are thrown through windows, people are kicked out of restaurants, and riots ensue. But the division didn’t just stay in the town, it was seen in the team itself. Punches were thrown, coaches resigned, and life-long players quit the team.
Finally, in the pivotal moment of the movie, the white captain of the football team punches the shoulder pads of one of his African-American teammates & yells, “Left Side!” while grinning and nodding like a goober. At first his teammate, Julius, is furious that he was just shoved. However slowly, slowly he realizes what is taking place. Bertier, the captain, is treating him like a teammate, not just a black man. Julius reaches up & punches Bertier back yelling, “Strong Side!” They go back and forth getting louder and louder until finally, the entire team gathers around yelling and cheering for each other, unified for the first time. From that point on a new team takes the field every week, and through the inevitable ups and downs that continued to come with the integration, they were able to maintain that unity and succeed: together.
Now let me ask: are you a Democrat, or a Republican? Are you for a change in immigration laws or against it? Will you vote for Hillary or Trump, or are you so convinced that they are both whackadoodles that you will refrain from voting at all? And the follow-up question: how full is your Facebook timeline of these issues?
According to an article published by the Christian Chronicle last year, membership of the Lord’s church in the United States has decreased 7.8% just since 1990. What is even more staggering about this statistic is that in the same time period the overall population of the United States has increased 28%. Why would this be? Why would the church’s numbers be down so drastically when the overall population is on the rise? Could it be, perhaps, that our left side and strong side are going in different directions? Could it possibly be that we are more worried about Trump and Hillary than Jesus Christ?
Now don’t get me wrong, while I will not share my political views here as they are not pertinent, I believe in being a good steward of the freedoms God has blessed us with in this country. I also understand how pivotal this next election will be for our country. But at the same time, on a daily basis I see my brethren sharing demeaning political posts on Facebook. I see my brethren arguing over race issues, education, taxes, the election, and whether Whattaburger is better than Braum’s (it’s Braum’s by the way, not even close).
I have always considered myself to be a pretty open-minded person. I’m willing to listen to both sides of an argument, there is in no way racism in my family, and as a follower of Christ I love all people. Yet 2 ½ years ago my family was given an opportunity that has changed me forever. 2 ½ years ago we made the move from small-town Oklahoma, where I have lived almost my entire life, to Hobbs, New Mexico in the middle of the dessert. While I had believed my life was diverse before, I quickly realized just how wrong I was. About six months after moving to Hobbs we returned to Oklahoma to visit our family. As my husband and I were walking through Wal-Mart we kept feeling that something was off, but we couldn’t place it. Finally it dawned on us, there were so many white people! Where was the rainbow of color we were used to?
I have now had the experience of struggling to find makeup because I am SO white that most of the shades here are too dark for me. I have met Indians, Whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Germans, Irish folk, & many combinations of the above who are all faithful followers of Jesus Christ. What was even more shocking for me, is that I have also met Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and those who refuse to acknowledge politics at all, each of whom are devoted to reaching out to the lost with the Gospel and serving Jesus Christ every day. I have met those immigrants who are here to take what they can and don’t care about America’s laws, and I have also met immigrants who have been here for 30 years trying to become an American citizen and unable to do so because of our government’s bureaucracy. These are just a few of the many differences in this world, and in our country. There are so many things to be divided over and squabble over. Yet sisters, there is so much more to be united in!
I believe that oftentimes we loose sight of the fact that we are all immigrants! I Peter 2:11-12 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” In this passage, we, Christians, are the sojourners and exiles, and those in the world are the Gentiles. How are we supposed to conduct ourselves? Honorably! Why? So that the Gentiles see what we have & want it! So that souls can be plucked from the fire (Jude 23)! Sisters, it is no wonder that our numbers are down when we bicker and fight just like the world! It’s no wonder our numbers are down and souls are being lost when we focus more on our differences of opinion than our commonalities in Christ! It’s no wonder that our numbers are down when we focus so much on what is wrong in our world and each other that we completely dismiss the cure, Jesus Christ!
Jesus himself said that the world would know we are his disciples by our love (John 13:35). Yet when we are hateful on Facebook, when we can’t even fellowship before services during a campaign season, when all we see are our differences, the world wants nothing to do with what we have to offer. Once again, I am not saying to be politically inactive or to not be a good steward of the blessings God has given us. What I am saying is that if our decisions regarding political parties, political agendas, and how we are going to fellowship with our brethren are based upon anything other than furthering the Gospel, we need to re-evaluate our priorities. If we can wax eloquently regarding Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, and yet we cannot give a defense for the hope that lies within us (I Peter 3:15), we need to re-evaluate our priorities. If we can give specifics on a candidate’s financial reforms, yet we cannot open God’s Word and share the Gospel with a lost soul, we are adding to the dissention. If we are more active in our political party or in promoting a specific race or agenda than we are in helping our local congregation spread the Gospel, we need to make a change.
There is an enemy out there. There is an enemy that we not only need to defend against, but that we need to be actively attacking (Matthew 16:18). However that enemy is NOT the Democrats or the Republicans. That enemy is NOT illegal immigrants, it is NOT the blacks or the whites, that enemy is SATAN, the father of lies (John 8:44) and when we allow these issues to divide us, we are buying into HIS lies, and HIS distractions, hook, line and sinker. We are not only allowing him to wreak havoc on the Lord’s church, we are making ourselves into his tools.
Sisters, our world seems darker than ever before. There is violence, division, anger and animosity all around us. The truth is, we only have two options: we will either add to that animosity and division, or we will shine the light of the Gospel into those dark places. As people, something is flowing from us every day. Our attitude, our priorities, our passions, shine through constantly. What are you overflowing? As we go throughout this year, as we approach elections, share posts on Facebook, join discussions, fellowship with our brethren, let us all remember first and foremost the bond of unity and spirit of peace that we have in Christ (Ephesians 4:3-6). Let us remember that both the left side and the strong side have the same goal, the same purpose, and neither side can succeed unless they are willing to be of the same mind, and have the same priorities.