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Eliminating the Divisions Between Us and Them

Two pronouns lie at the center of human history: Us and Them.

Us is the inclusive part of human nature. Us is the God-given desire for relationships, community and fellowship. Us is the instinct that inspired our ancestors to live together, first as families, and then as clans, villages, cities, nations, kingdoms and empires. Us lies at the heart of declarations such as
• “I love you.”
• “I pledge allegiance …”
• “Welcome to the club.”
• “You’re my best friend.”
• “I’ve got your back.”

Us is the embodiment of cooperation, camaraderie and teamwork. The book of Revelation hints that it’s also a preview of heaven. The worship scene in Revelation 7:9-12 is the very pinnacle of “us-ness.”

Them is the hazardous byproduct of us. The origins of them are murky. At some point early in human history, someone determined that not everyone deserved us-ness. Perhaps as a result of the Fall, people came to the realization that the best way to strengthen us was to create a them.

Them is the exclusive part of human nature. Them is the sin-stained desire to establish a more prestigious and selective us by denying us-ness to certain people. Them feeds and bruises egos in equal measure. Few experiences in life are as thrilling as being included in a select group. Likewise, few experiences in life are as devastating as being deemed unworthy to join such a group.

Them gives us a reason to indulge in the worst aspects of our sinful nature. Them is the dark heart of bullying, Them is the justification for war. Them creates refugee crises. Them caused the Holocaust.

In Christ Jesus, there is no us and them.

The dynamic of us and them is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it drives national elections and government policies. That’s why Galatians 3:28 stands as one of the most subversive passages in all of Scripture. In it, the apostle Paul declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In Christ Jesus, there is no us and them.

How is such a radical shift in perspective possible?

Empathy.

Empathy, in its purest form, is us trying to see through the eyes of them. That’s not to say that empathy is the same as agreement. It’s not. Some us-and-them schisms are the results of two differing, yet very deeply held, beliefs. Empathy is the bridge that spans the schism and allows us and them to explore one another’s territory. Ideally, the result is a common ground where us and them can coexist.

Empathy opens the door to meaningful interaction between us and them. Empathy seeks to understand. Empathy lowers defenses. Empathy doesn’t presume to announce, “I know how you think and feel”; empathy humbly says, “I want to understand how you think and feel.”

Empathy is in short supply in our culture. That’s why the people who practice it are among our most valuable resources.

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Check out these four Bible passages that illustrate the importance of empathy.  

Think About It:

In what ways can you practice empathy in your life?

5 comments on “Eliminating the Divisions Between Us and Them

  1. Gustav Diedericks says:

    The article does not seem to make it clear that when it comes to Christians and non-believers, there is a clear “Us and Them” factor. Also, it appears as if the article is trying to raise an unattainable expectation on Christians to claim that they should have empathy for one another and non-believers.

    When it comes to the “Us and Them”, the verse quoted (Galatians 3:28) are specifically referring to Christians and their relations with one another as having unity as Jesus-followers, and not seeing each other as previously being Jew or Gentile, or anything else as such (See the whole Galatians 3 for the context). This is totally converse to the heading of the blog entry that suggests unity with all people, whether they are believers or not. The “Us and Them” factor between believing, Christ-following Christians and those that do not believe or do not follow in Jesus’ footsteps is wholly important to being a Christ-follower. It is the ability of Christians to discriminate between Followers and Non-Followers that is of utmost importance to our Faith. For instance, if it isn’t for the “Us and Them” factor, how will we be able to discern advice coming from a Follower versus one that comes from a Non-Follower? Are we to take the advice from both at the same face value? Should we apply both equally to our lives? What if the advice given contradicts each other? Who do we listen to then? And we haven’t even spoken about actions as yet!

    Then there are the very Bible verses that put the “Us and Them” factor into a more contrasting perspective. For one, God/Jesus hates it when we assist those that actively defile His Name, Glory, and Honour through their beliefs and actions (2 Chronicles 19: 1-7; 2 Corinthians 6: 14-18). In another, we are reminded and instructed not to follow in their actions but to live Holy and differently (1 Thessalonians 4-5; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 3: 1-9; Ephesians 4: 17-32; 1 Peter 2: 4-12, need I go on?). How are we not Us and Them in the sight of both Jesus and one another when we speak of those that do not believe?

    Obviously, this does not mean that we completely not interact for them. We are supposed to spread the Gospel, and pray for them (such as mentioned in 1 Timothy 2), but that does not mean that we partake in what they do or live for what they live for, or vote for what they vote for, or stand for what they stand for, unless it aligns with Jesus’ teachings and Way. In this way, there is a clear “Us and Them”.

    Finally, there is no way that a Christian can be expected to have empathy with non-believers, or indeed one another, in every situation. If you meant to use the word sympathy, then I apologise as this is the correct term to use, but to expect Christians to have empathy is, in many circumstances, impossible. For instance, I can have sympathy for a person who lost their mother, comfort them, pray for them, and in a small way ease their suffering by standing with them. However, since I have not lost my mother there is no way in which I can empathize with them as I have no idea how it feels to lose my mother since I have not lost her yet.
    There are more examples that I can mention, but my comment is long-winded already.

  2. Rick says:

    Greetings Gustav! I would just like to comment briefly. Im not trying to argue semantics. I just know from my own walk, how easy it is to get on the wrong thought train and end up derailed. I believe we are to see unbelievers just as God sees them; with the potential to be future believers. (God sees the treasure in the trash) I also know that we all(believer and unbeliever) have potential that could be activated at any time by anyone. As you wrote “we are reminded and instructed not to follow in their actions but to live Holy and differently”, you are absultely correct. I’d encourage you (and all of us) to re-read Col chapters 3-4, Eph chapters 3,4,&5, and Romans chapters 12-13. These are great reminders of our new Name and our new Nature. We are also reminded to be cautious of division. To put on God’s Love as our motivation and as our reward. This will allow us to interact (do life together) with unbelievers in such a way as not to be affected by them but to infect them with The Love of God.(that’s how Jesus lived) Once anyone has come in contact with the most contagious thing there is; GOD’s LOVE, then God can be the one to bring about any changes necessary. Also, in closing this up, you stated you couldn’t have empathy with unbelievers much like you could not empathize with one who has lost their mother, (stating that you have not lost yours)I lovingly remind you, (and me) that Romans 3 says we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory and 1John1 says if we say we haven’t sinned, we are a liar. Therefore, that gives all of us believers the ability to empathize with every unbeliever because we have been where they are. I pray earnestly that anyone who reads this would hear the Love from our Heavenly Father and realize how little time is left to share HIS Love and bring unbelievers into the family. God Bless you all!

  3. Allen Sutcliffe says:

    I just have to say, I’m not in total agreement here. There is good and evil, righteous and unrighteous, etc., which equates to ‘us and them’. It’s how you relate or deal with us and them that matters since including them is not always healthy or safe for ‘us’.
    The verse you reference should be noted as pertaining to the church (us) and not the world (them).
    We are told to love ‘them’, but be apart from them. We want ‘them’ to be saved thru Jesus but until they are they have different levels of danger to ‘us’ as christians.
    Thank you.

  4. Enid Eck says:

    Wow! I believe that Gustav completely missed the point of the article. He has also apparently forgotten that God, in His great mercy, even when we hated him in word and deed, did not isolate himself with an “us and them” mindset, but sent his son to rescue us. Jesus, having emptied himself of all he was entitled to, took on the form of a bond servant and was made in the likeness of men. Scripture is clear that Christ was “moved with compassion” for us. He wept at our fallen and lost state. How very unfortunate that Gustav appears unable to see beyond his need to be part of the “us” group by making sure there remains a “them” rather than being an “imitator of God, as a beloved child; who walks in love, just as Christ also loved him and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” Ephesians 5:1-2.

  5. Rebekah says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on this post but then I read Enid’s comment regarding Gustav. First let me just say, I kind of understand where Gustav and Allen are coming from. Although, I’ve never been a big supporter of the “Us/Them” mentality I believe they made some good points.

    However, I would say that of the two responses that addressed Gustav’s response directly, it felt like one was made in love while the other had an air of condemnation to it. Rick, lovingly addressed Gustav’s comments and included himself in his response so as not to appear to be attacking Gustav. Where as Enid’s comment appeared to be doing nothing but attacking Gustav. I could literally feel the anger and disgust pouring out of his comment.

    This concerns because the Word says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” I would respectfully ask Enid to consider this passage when attempting to correct brothers and sisters in Christ. The enemy of our souls has enough work trying to derail us with condemnation that we have to fight against daily. Let’s not give him a hand by throwing condemnation at one another.

    If I were a non-believer and I came across this post somehow and read it along with the four comments, I would have walked away wondering, “if the Christians can’t even get along and agree in love with one another, then why would I want any of part of their world or their beliefs?”

    We have to learn to love one another as Christ loves us, and to correct one another in that love if we ever hope to be the light and salt to a hurt and lost world as we are called to be.

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