Us and Them
By Anthony Casperson
Maybe I’ve been spending too much time on the internet lately. Reading articles, watching videos, checking social media, no matter what I do online, I come across people hating someone else. People disagree with each other over everything from the insignificant to the life-defining. Yet in this difference, we feel the ability to denigrate, dismiss, or bully others who disagree with us.
It shouldn’t surprise me that we selfish, sinful, fallen, finite beings who see the world only through our own set of eyes would find fault with those who disagree with us. Each of those adjectives by themselves would prove true our tendency to make an enemy of anyone who isn’t like us. And all of them are true of human beings.
This is why things like racism, sexism, social elitism, and every other prejudice known to humanity exists. We define ourselves by our differences. Anyone outside of our predefined parameters then automatically becomes one of “them.” What makes “them” different from “us?” Only the lines that we, ourselves, set to define. It’s not something wrong with “them” other than being on the wrong side of a line that exists only in our imagination.
Human beings love to, and seem quite apt at, making enemies out of just about every difference. We can run actors off of social media because we don’t like what a movie studio chose to do with that actor’s character. We can drive a person to tears because we say that person isn’t a “real” gamer/nerd/anything else because of their gender.
And even people who state that they are for the various differences in humanity can sling hate with the best of them. Some use the platform of their fame to degrade and make fun of others who use their own positions of power differently than the first group of people would like. Still others nitpick over the innocent use of words, like which pronouns we use, and make it into a battlefield to die on.
It all makes me realize one thing. Without an enemy, we will make one. If there’s not some “them” that forces “us” together, then new lines will be drawn for sides. Our desires to be accepted force us to reject others for some fickle reason.
The sad thing is that it’s not any different among the followers of Jesus. We fight over teachings about baptism, the Lord’s supper, gender roles, church governance, free will, spiritual gifts, the end times, and so many other things. It’s not that these teachings are unimportant (because our understandings have much deeper practical applications than we even realize), but they should never make us take sides against our brothers and sisters in Jesus, as if this were a spiritual civil war.
Paul even talks about this in 1 Corinthians 1. The people of Corinth were dividing themselves based off of which apostle’s teaching they preferred. Paul stands indignant that they would use his name to make divisions among the family of God. What we should unite under is the gospel of Jesus. The truth that God enfleshed in humanity sacrificed himself, to make available to all who accept it, so that we can have proper relationship with God. That is what binds us, what draws us together, what unifies us.
Absolutely, there will be as many theologies as there are people. We are still finite beings with only our own limited perspectives to understand the infinite mind of God. But this shouldn’t make us enemies.
And people who deny Jesus and the gospel? They’re not the enemy either. Human beings are all, whether we want to admit it or not, God-made images of himself whom he loves enough to die for and save.
But that brings us back to the thought. Without an enemy, we will make one. So who/what is our enemy?
When we followers of Jesus get so wrapped up in debates and arguments amongst ourselves over every bit of our theological differences, we forget that we are brothers-in-arms in a spiritual battle. We have an enemy. One who declared war against God by marring his image-bearers. One who likes to hide his little butt so that we turn on each other, rather than focus-fire on him and his agents.
The name Satan even means “enemy” in Hebrew. He is our enemy. It’s a spiritual battle that we fight. Our backbiting, name-calling, and dividing only further our enemy’s goals. If the representative of rebellion is remembered to be our enemy, then we might just have the ability to stop thinking of our fellow image-bearers as “them.”
And we can focus on what should truly unite us: the God-man who sets us free from rebellion.