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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Fighting for Unity in a Divided World

James Meehan - Fighting for Unity in a Divided World

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    James Meehan - Fighting for Unity in a Divided World

So we're going to take a trip down memory lane. I remember last day of school when I'm in the sixth grade, I am walking to lunch for the last lunch of my sixth grade year. And because my sixth grade year was pretty hectic and crazy, I was committed to finishing out that year strong. I had every single intention of getting to that lunch room, standing on my table, grabbing a fist full of food, standing up and belting out of the top of my lungs, food fight, and then just letting it rip. But unfortunately God had different plans because on my way to lunch, I'm walking, talking with my friend, and all of a sudden, boom, I literally get punched in the face. And so I'm like, oh shoot, okay. Push you off of me. "Bro, why'd you punch me"? And thankfully he so caringly and respectfully answered that question with another punch in the face.

So I'm sitting here, 11, maybe 12, I can't remember that was too long ago. Sitting here punched in the face twice, just mad because now I'm not gonna be able to start a food fight because I'm in a fist fight, and the dude just keeps coming at me. So we just like go at it in the cafeteria, nope, the hallway to the cafeteria. And we're just going at it. Like we slam into the lockers, like we're on the ground, we're up. And then all of a sudden we get that big old hand on the back of our necks. We get broken up by the principal because we decided to get into a fight right outside of the principal's office. That works. We go sit down in his office, and he looks at us both and he said, "what were you thinking? Why did you do that"? And the kid who punched me looks at the principal, no hesitation, no shame, and just says "man, he stole my sucker".

I didn't steal his sucker. I don't know who took his sucker, but it certainly wasn't me. And I got punched in the face. And like that to me is what 2020 feels like, right? Like we're on our way, making the best year ever, going out with a bang, and all of a sudden, boom, coronavirus punched in the face. Boom, racial tension all across the world. Boom, political division on levels that we've never experienced before, to the point where now the level of frustration, the level of anger, of hate of anxiety, of fear, of division is off the charts. It's overwhelming, it's exhausting. And it's really frustrating. And that's why for the next five weeks we're going to be talking about what it looks like to fight for unity in a divided world. Because the thing that a divided world needs is a united church, because the church was intended by God to be a picture of heaven for our broken world. But if we look like the rest of the world, if we are just as angry, hateful, afraid, and divisive as everybody else, when they look at us, they're not gonna want what we have.

And that's not okay, because when Jesus showed up 2000 years ago he didn't just introduce a better way, he introduced the true way, a way that is so good, and a way that is so true, that's why we call the gospel good news. Now maybe for you the way that you've experienced this is, you know, you're hanging out with your friends, and all of a sudden that friend, he says that thing that you know is about to turn this entire hangout into a political debate. Or maybe you're sitting at dinner table with your parents, and they say that thing that you just cannot understand why they keep saying. Or maybe you're just overwhelmed with the flood of anger, of hate and of fear that is all over social media today. And the thing is, is that in almost every instance it seems like every issue has turned into a battle between us and them, between my side and their side. The right side and the wrong side, to the point where what used to be a line that was drawn in the sand has evolved into this canyon, right?

Where we're now so divided, we're so far apart that I can't even talk to you anymore because in order for me to be heard I have to yell at you. It's become a shouting match, a battle. And I'll tell you what, it's just not the way things are meant to be. And yet we are calling this side of the global lockdown, we're calling this the new normal. If this is normal, I don't want it. And the beautiful thing is, is that what Jesus introduced is so much better than normal. And in a world where it is so tempting to want to take a side, as followers of Christ, what we have to remember is that every time we take a side we divide. Every time we take a side we divide, right? If I'm on this side, then guess what? I'm not with those people on that side. But if I go over here and I take this side, then who am I not with? I'm not with those people. And this is why it's so important for us to remember that the side we will take as followers of Jesus is the side that Jesus is on. And you know what side Jesus is on? Often it's right in the middle, fighting to bring people together. Jesus didn't say blessed are the side takers.

Jesus said "blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God". So how do we fight for unity in a divided world? Well, I think the best thing that we can do is learn from Jesus. Who better than anyone in history understood the danger of division and the value of unity? In fact, in Mark's gospel, chapter three, verse 24 and 25, Jesus is quoted saying this. He says "a kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart". Every time we take a side we divide, and we get one step closer to falling apart. And that is why it's so important for us to remember that what our divided world needs is a United church, a church that is a picture to our broken world of what heaven looks like. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna cover three big ideas of what it looks like for us as the body of Christ, the church, the people of God, to fight for unity in our divided world.

The first thing that we've gotta do if we want to fight for unity it is we have to keep the main thing the main thing. We have to keep the main thing the main thing, because anytime we get distracted from the main thing, then we get overwhelmed and start fighting for anything, right? And we start to fight about things that yes they matter, but they're not what matters most. And so for us who are followers of Christ, what we've got to always keep in mind is that for us the main thing is the gospel. It's the message that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus God has once again become King, that his kingdom is coming on earth, as it is in heaven. And everybody, people on this side and people on that side are invited into a relationship with God because of what Jesus did.

All of us want the world to be better. And the gospel is the promise that because of Jesus the future will be brighter and better than the past. And we have a part to play in making it happen. That is the main thing for us. And if we lose sight of it, it's gonna be so easy to drift into division. It's gonna be so easy to fall into the same us versus them mentality that we see literally everywhere, to the point where it's exhausting, we don't want it, and that's not the way things are meant to be. It's interesting because in Mark's gospel, the first thing that Mark writes down Jesus saying, it's in chapter one, is Jesus making it super clear what the main thing is, right? This is Mark chapter one, verse 15, where Jesus says this. He says "the time promised by God has come at last. The thing that you've all been waiting for is finally here". He announces that the kingdom of God is near so repent of your sins and believe the good news.

The first thing Jesus said is the main thing for us, that the gospel, the announcement that God is King, that his kingdom is coming on earth, as it is in heaven. And all of us are invited to be a part of it. We've got to keep the main thing the main thing, because when we lose sight of what matters most, we start fighting about all of the things that make it so easy to be divided. But what a divided world needs is a united church. So how do we fight for unity in a divided world? The first thing we do is we keep the main thing the main thing. The second thing we do is we choose both and, not either or. We choose both and, not either or. I love what Jim Collins, he's an author, I love the way that he talks about this. He wrote a book that's all about what makes great organizations great. And he says that one of the most important lessons that any great organization can learn is that in order to be great "you have to reject the tyranny of or, and to embrace the genius of and". I love that language. "Reject the tyranny of or and embrace the genius of and".

You see, one of the biggest problems that we've fallen into today is we've lost the ability to value differences, because we've kind of fallen into this trap of assuming that if you disagree with me on this issue, then you disagree with who I am as an individual. So that any disagreement feels like a personal attack. But guess what? We can absolutely love one another and disagree about things we're passionate about it. It isn't easy, but it's absolutely necessary. Unity is not the same thing as uniformity. Unity is when everybody, sorry, uniformity is when everybody is the same, but unity actually requires diversity because unity is what you get when you have a group of people with different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives coming together around a common goal. And this is exactly what the church is meant to be, a community of difference coming together to make a difference. And I love the way that the apostle Paul writes about this in his letter to the Corinthian Church. What he says is this.

This is in chapter 12, verses four through six. He says there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same spirit is the source of them. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but is the same God who does the work in all of us. The church is meant to be a picture of heaven to our broken world. And what that picture looked like is not everybody being the same, but it's everybody coming together with their differences to make a difference. It's interesting just how easy though it is to assume that I either have to choose this thing or that thing, right? I have to choose to be with these people, or to be with those people. But what's so beautiful about Jesus is that over and over and over again he didn't just settle for taking a side. He decided to stand in the middle, to fight to bring people together. One of the most beautiful pictures of this is when Jesus is hanging on the cross, and on either of him are two thieves, thief here and thief there. And Jesus is sitting on this cross while being crucified and murder for crimes he didn't commit.

And here's what he didn't do. He didn't condemn the men who crucified him. Instead he prayed father, forgive them, for they don't even know what they're doing. Like how easy would it have been for Jesus to just assume that these people are either for me or they are against me. But instead what Jesus said is hey, even though I don't agree with what they're doing, cause they're literally like killing me, I'm going to love them anyways. And that's so hard for us to wrap our minds around because we've forgotten how to value differences. But the church is meant to be a community of differents that come together to make a difference. And until we wrap our minds around that, we will never be able to fight for unity in our divided world, because what a divided world needs is a united church. And in order for us to be a picture of heaven to our broken world, what we need to be able to do is to keep the main thing the main thing. And we have to be willing to choose both and, and not either or. Even when it's hard it's worth it because it's better.

And the third thing that we're gonna do though, is we're gonna love others the same way that Jesus loves us. There's this beautiful scene where Jesus is having dinner with his closest followers. And it's right before he goes to the cross to be crucified, to be killed as the sacrifice for our sins. And he's sitting at what is called the last supper with his followers. And he's saying hey guys, I'm gonna initiate a new covenant with you, a new partnership between you and me, between God and humanity. And there's going to be a sign of this covenant that's a little bit different from what you had before. I'm giving you a new command to mark this covenant. The command is pretty simple, but it's really, really challenging. And Jesus gives it to us in John chapter 13, verse 34 and 35 when he says this. He says a new command I give you. Love one another as I have loved you. So you are to love one another. By this, by your love, the world will know that you are my disciples.

You see what Jesus is telling us is that the thing that sets us apart as Christians is not how right we are, it's not how well we argue. It's not who we vote for. It's how we love one another. What Jesus is telling us in this verse, right, the world will know who I am by the way you love, Jesus is making it crystal clear that the world will know who he is by the way that we love. We are called to be a picture of heaven to our broken world. And that looks like loving people the same way that Jesus loves us. And it can be tempting to want to win a debate, to want to prove that other person wrong. In the battle of us and them, to show them what's what. But as followers of Jesus, if we win the argument, but we lose our influence, we've lost, because we've lost sight of what matters most. It's not winning the argument, it's showing people God's love so that through that, that they would know who Jesus is and what that means for them. Because of that, that changes everything.

So what are you gonna do in a world that is so divided, in a world that is so hurt, with people that are angry, they're frustrated and they're looking for hope, will you settle for division? Or will you fight for unity? Because the thing that a divided world needs is a united church. And as tempting as it can be to take a side, what we've got to remember is that every time we take a side we divide. So if we're gonna take a side, let's side with Jesus. Let's stand in the middle. Let's fight to bring people together because Jesus didn't say blessed are the side takers, he said blessed are the peacemakers. Let's pray:

Heavenly Father, I thank you so much that even in the middle of all of this division, this anger, this hurt, this frustration that you are still good. That your message is still good news. Not just because it's beneficial, but because it's true. And so God what I pray is that every single one of the students in this room that's hearing this message, that they would feel your love, that they would feel your presence. That that thing that is stirring inside of them, craving for unity, craving for something that is so much better than what we're calling normal, that God you would speak to them, that you would awaken something inside of them, and that they would put that thing into action to choose to fight for unity.

What I know is that in a room this size, and in all of our different locations, that there might be some of you who you would recognize that yes, I'm a follower of Jesus, but man I haven't been acting like it. I have been settling for division instead of fighting for unity. But today I want that to change. I want to keep the main thing the main thing. I want to choose both and, not either or. I want to love others the same way that Jesus does. If that's you, would you lift your hand so that I can pray for you and ask God to fill you with his spirit so that you would love others the same way that he does.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for those students who are being honest and they are being bold. God, I pray that you give them the wisdom to know what's right, the courage to do what's right, the willingness to step out, to move from whatever side they're on and to side with Jesus. God, give them courage, give them strength. Let them feel your comfort, feel your strength. Surround them with other people that are there for them so that they can stand for others.

Still in an attitude of prayer, with every head bowed and every eye closed, I know there's another group of you that are in here today, and you're wrestling with everything that's happened this year. You're wrestling with the immense frustration, the immense weight that maybe you've been carrying, or maybe for you, you just feel so apathetic you just don't care anymore. I've got a message for you. It's called the gospel. It's the good news that Jesus Christ, the son of God, he came into history. He stepped onto this earth 2000 years ago for you, to show you that there is a better way. Not just because it's helpful, but because it's true. And the truth is is that every single one of us as human beings, we've all sinned. We've done things to hurt ourselves, others, and to hurt the heart of God. And that sin has separated us from God. It has divided us from the one that we were meant to be united to, but Jesus was not okay with the division so he stepped into history. He remembered that God created you for relationship with him. And he chose to live a perfect life. He died a brutal death on the cross, but that wasn't the end of the story.

You see, the good news is that Jesus didn't stay dead. He conquered death, hell and the grave so that anybody who puts their trust in him would be saved. They would be made new. They would be a part of God's family. They would be made new. They would be made whole so that they could make a difference. And that's exactly why you're here tonight, to say yes to Jesus, to begin a relationship with him, to turn your back on your past and step into the future that God has for you. If that's you, simply lift your hand right now. All over the place, if you're saying yes to Jesus, lift your hand, raise it up because we want to celebrate with you the best choice you could make in your entire life. And here's what we know, there are people making that decision right now. And we are gonna pray this prayer alongside you because at Switch we're a family and nobody prays alone. Repeat after me.

Dear Jesus, forgive me. I'm turning from my sin, I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. And I need your mercy. I give you my life. In Jesus' name, amen.

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