If you put water and oil in a jar and give it a good shake, they may seem like they are mixed but soon the oil and water will separate and you will have a layer of water on the top and a layer of oil on the bottom. People are a lot like that. We are as intrinsically different as oil and water in so many ways. While the types of differences can be as numerous as the amount of people on the planet, there are some ways in which we are binary. Men and women, Northerners and Southerners, cat people and dog people and those that prefer church in-person and those that enjoy the convenience of virtual church. Of course, people are not as simple as this. In reality the types are endless and even in the examples above, we are a combination of them. I am a man from the South who loves dogs and going to church in-person. As a man from the South who loves dogs and going to church in-person, it takes some work for me to understand a woman from the North who loves cats and if the decision was based purely on choice, prefers attending church virtually. In reality, it takes some work for me to understand my wife who is a woman from the North. Thankfully, she fits in the loves dogs and attending church in-person description, so the bridge to cross is not that long, if the types listed above were all there were to it. However, she is much more complex than that and so am I. There are many ways in which we are alike, but there are also many in which we are different, yet we have a great marriage just the same.
Marriage is a lot like shaking the bottle. You may be able to keep the one-ness for a while, but without any help, you will separate into your individual differences. Church is also a type of marriage, except with the church we are all a part of the Bride of Christ and are united in marriage with the Son of God (Eph. 5:31-32). This is a simple truth that has so much complexity. Complex, in part, because within each of us is an internal conflict where our sinful proclivities are pulling us to be disobedient towards the indwelling Spirit’s transformational work of making us more Christ-like. Made even more complex when you realize that any assembly of believers is a gathering of individuals all dealing with the same internal conflict. Individually and corporately, we may all have our spirit’s shaken up and we may seem to be united, but then the struggles of life and the deeds of the flesh come back in and the division manifests itself again.
Going back to the forementioned oil and water solution, these two are not doomed to never be enjoined into one solution. All they need is an emulsifier to be added. For oil and water, if egg yolk is added, the two would no longer separate, but would then be a new solution. Just as the natural world has a solution to this dilemma, the spiritual world does as well. Unfortunately, we are often prone to answer division with a worldly response which usually has the opposite effect. Instead of uniting people, the worldly solutions typically result in the differences solidifying with no known hope or desire of finding an environment of reconciliation and compromise. For example, social media and political commentary are two of the world’s most common additives which work towards increasing the divide between two different factions. (Yes, I see the irony in me using social media to send this out, but hang with me.)
Now, let us replace the oil and water with a hyper-conservative person and a hyper-liberal person. When a monumental event which causes almost universal outrage or remorse happens in the world, like 9/11, these two might be shaken up to where they are united for a week or two, but it will not take long for them to separate based on their pre-existing individual differences. So, is there anything in the world that can act as an emulsifier between two people that are so starkly contrasted? In the world? I guess it’s possible, but it is extremely unlikely. Any mixing of the two would be hard-pressed to extend past superficial niceties. For a long-lasting, deep-rooted union between any two people with vast differences the solution must come from out of the world.
I am not saying that two people with different political or religious affiliations cannot be friends at some level. But, at least in the such friendships that I have known, they feel free to talk about anything … except religion and politics, the two things that are at the core of their world views and essential to who they are. Left on our own, humanity is utterly hopeless to have a lasting peace. Like the universe around us, our relations are bent towards entropy between each other. Division is our nature. You just have to look at the divorce rate to see that. If two people who supposedly love and are committed to each other only have a fifty percent success rate, how can two people stay united who do not have a vow that is keeping them together with so many differences that are pulling them apart?
And yet … we are not without hope. We are given the emulsifier for what is not a worldly problem, but a spiritual one. All have sinned … we have all messed up. We all bring our messy selves into every human interaction we engage in. We all have the ability to be dead-certain about things which are not true. Look at Paul. By all accounts, he was highly intelligent and was taught by a very famous biblical scholar of his day. Paul knew the Bible as well or better than anyone. Yet, with all of his intellect and knowledge, he still thought that stoning Stephen was a good idea and within the will of God. Paul was without hope … left on his own. But the Lord met him on the road to Damascus and by faith he received the Great Emulsifier which would enjoin him with the people he once hated. The Great Emulsifier – the Gospel, which has also been gifted to us.
The world is full of personal and societal sins which have been working since the garden to create division. The source of these types of sins is not the actual division between the groups or individuals, but an inability to let God alone be sovereign in our lives and understanding that He alone is perfect and holy. From the beginning, mankind has tried to usurp His authority. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they wanted what the Lord said they could not have. Cain killed Abel because he wanted the blessing that the Lord gave his younger brother. The Tower of Babel, which was erected in attempt to build a man-made path to heaven, is a model that mankind has followed from the beginning to the current time. We look at human achievement and come to believe that there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. We have split the atom and walked on the moon. It will not be long before we put people on Mars. Is there anything outside of mankind’s reach?
The problem is that while all of these things are great and evidence of God-given ingenuity, trying to fix societal sins or what is broken within us by man-made means is impossible. We might as well work towards putting a man on the surface of the sun. The sun is a molten-hot ball of gas without a solid surface, but putting a person there is far easier than fixing the messiness within us and around us. The world governments could pool together all the world’s resources to attack the problem and it would not come close to a solution. But what is impossible for us, God has made possible because nothing is impossible with Him. May we ever walk in light of that impossible possibility – the gift of the Great Emulsifier – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By so doing, even when we disagree with each other, we may just realize that what is in us is infinitely greater than anything that could ever separate us.