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Unity despite genuine fear and anger

22 March 2022 By Matthew Giesbrecht

God calls us to act out of genuine grace toward each other, not out of division, Matthew Giesbrecht reminds us.

I came across a refreshing opinion piece in The Globe and Mail about how forgiveness and uniting together is the true cure to our Covid-related divisions.

What really caught my attention was how the author (Niall McKenna of Edmonton) had real conversations with people he disagreed with. He felt united for the first time with them in mutual grief, which moved toward forgiveness.

We’ve needed that over these past two years.

Grief is something virtually all of us have experienced during this pandemic, whether by losing loved ones to the virus, losing normal connections with loved ones, losing a business or some other form of grief.

We’re picking up the pieces of our lives with a surprising level of uncertainty we never imagined. Covid has crippled many aspects of our health – no surprise there – but has also uncovered surprising areas of division. Things like mask-wearing, vaccine passports and blockades are issues we never would have imagined two years ago would separate us from neighbours and loved ones.

The separation originates from genuine experiences and emotions on both sides.

Genuine fear I know several parents of immunocompromised children fearful of what contracting Covid might mean for them. I also know parents terrified the extreme measures taken in schools are the beginning of fascism, forcing our children to wear masks and get vaccinated. One side is motivated to practise diligence toward mask wearing and vaccination, the other to advocate for freedom of choice via petitions and public protests.

Genuine anger These same parents feel as though the opposite side is unreceptive and unmoved by their specific fears. They feel that not only have their fears been diminished but that the wellbeing of their loved ones is diminished too. They’re easily drawn to hostility toward the other.

We’re divided by fear and anger. The divisive choices that some make in the form of alienation and demonization only fuel our fear and anger.

I thought my fellow Evangelicals would cope better. But over the past two years, unfortunately I’ve seen much of the same divisiveness among believers over these issues as among the rest of society.  

Of course, Evangelicals have divisions among us predating the pandemic – issues from education to gender roles to nonessential doctrines. Yesterday’s kerfuffles we could tolerate, as they kept us at arm’s length from each other. But today’s Covid scuffles have caused us to get in each other’s faces.

Many believers “focus on the specific factors that [divide] them…and disregard the more significant factors that unite them,” as Christena Cleveland writes in Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart (IVP, 2013).

It’s funny how it took an unreligious article in The Globe and Mail to crystalize what’s needed when it should be obvious in every Christian. It is we who’ve been given the gospel. If the world is to understand the gospel, it’ll understand based on how Christians live it.

Christian unity was once marked by its uniqueness (Stuart G. Hall, Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church, Wipf & Stock, 2011) – a recognition of sacred unity rooted in grace. Have we forgotten this truth?

The Apostle Paul once reminded Titus that God’s grace teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:12), so we must recall that God’s grace sees us reconciled with Him and with each other. When we do this, we are moved toward mutual love for each other. We then also answer Christ’s prayer in John 17:23, that all believers be completely united so that the world would know Him.

Imagine if the message we were sending to the world was one acted out of genuine grace toward each other – an enactment of the gospel – and not one acted out of division.

We must ask ourselves, if genuine grace was first seen from today’s Christians, would the world need to hear this message anywhere else?

Matthew Giesbrecht is a freelance writer in southern Manitoba ( Photo of angry bird by David Knox from Unsplash.

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