OUR OPINION: Healing divisions is duty of the faithful

By NEMS Daily Journal

Most of Northeast Mississippi and the state as a whole have just come through municipal elections. The heat of an election can fray the bonds of community between opposing camps, whether that community is the town, city, state or nation, and some people want nothing to do with politics because of its tendency to unravel the communal fabric.
For people of faith, the time immediately following an election of any kind offers the opportunity to be the leaven in the wake of division and bruised feelings where they exist. This is particularly true in small towns and cities, where the impact of a few people of good will can be felt immediately.
For Christians, this means the requirement to reach out and repair relationships that may have been tested during a campaign, or for that matter, that were damaged before and which the campaign simply brought out more directly.
One of the failings of our time, and certainly our politics, is the unwillingness to listen to and learn from each other. We are so busy expressing our own views, and are so interested in having them prevail, that we have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in the kinds of conversations that might lead to greater understanding and even common ground.
The Book of Common Prayer offers a prayer for what it describes as “times of conflict.” These days, that’s almost any election season or anytime politics is discussed.
“Oh God,” it reads, “you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This is a simple and direct recipe for salvaging a politics that has gotten way away from “mutual forbearance and respect” – especially at the national level. But it’s a good reminder at the local level as well.
If God has “bound us together in a common life,” and if we contribute to undermining the communal glue that holds that common life together, we are, in effect, unraveling what God has intended.
This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have convictions and stand up for them in the political arena. It does, however, mean that believers have a responsibility to ensure that our advocacy is carried out in love, derived from our desire to serve and absent of needlessly polarizing actions, words or influences.
For in the end, we all have to live together. And God’s call to us is to do what we can to make that common life as peaceful, harmonious and respectful as possible. “Peacemakers,” are, after all, blessed.
Why a common life? Why not simply a collection of individuals doing their own thing, heedless of the welfare and feelings of others? Because scripture and two-plus centuries of Christian experience, tradition and thoughtful reflection suggest rather clearly that is not how God intends for us to live.