It would be an understatement to say that our country is divided politically. And it’s not like we look at folks on the other side and think, “We disagree on some fundamental points, but we’re angling for the same result.”

It would be an understatement to say that our country is divided politically.  And it’s not like we look at folks on the other side and think, “We disagree on some fundamental points, but we’re angling for the same result.”  
Rather, we see each other as threats, assuming the unhinged other is determined to destroy everything we hold dear.  I can deal with political division, what bothers me more are polarizations I see growing within the church.
I’m using “church” here to mean the Body of Christ…people of every Christian stripe who profess Jesus as Lord.  Our various tribes are starting to draw proverbial lines in the sand over social issues and Biblical interpretation.  More troubling is that the festering distrust so prevalent in political circles seems to be taking hold within the church.  
For the most part the church has moved beyond the worship wars of the 90s where hymn and tradition-loving folks went toe to toe with the praise and worship crowd.  Where we may still warily eye one another over style, but we seem to have accepted that we’re moving in the same direction.  Today the fight seems less shrill, but the stakes are higher.  Today’s main event is over social issues of inclusion, same-sex marriage and ordination, which are really issues of Biblical hermeneutic (the various processes by which we read and understand the Bible.)  What is troubling is that we seem to have quickly moved beyond the debate to take up the hatchet of schism.
As important as these issues are, they do not define what it is to be Christian.  Believe it or not, we can disagree over social inclusion and how to read scripture while remaining united in Christ Jesus.  Let me reiterate, these are important issues, but they should not be used as weapons to build a church, destroy another or mistrust each other.
I am reminded of a sermon penned by John Wesley he titled “Catholic Spirit.”  In this message Wesley promoted unity among the people called Methodists, while acknowledging the fact that they disagreed over many particulars.  Here is a common English synopsis of his closing remarks,
“Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight. If your heart is right as my heart is with yours, then love me with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother… As a fellow-citizen of the new Jerusalem, as a companion in the kingdom.  Love me with a love that is patient, if I am ignorant or out of the way, bearing and not increasing my burden.  Love me with the love that 'is not provoked either at my follies or infirmities.  Commend me to God in all your prayers; wrestle with him on my behalf, that he would speedily correct what he sees amiss and supply what is wanting in me.  Beg of him…that my heart may be more as your heart, more right both toward God and toward man.  Provoke me to love and to good works…  Speak to me in love whatsoever you believe to be for my soul’s health.  Love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth.  So far as in conscience you can (retaining still your own opinions and your own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God, and let us go on hand in hand.”
Friends, I hope you’ll join me as I pray for a spirit of unity within the church.  For the sake of our witness and for the sake of our country, may we be found to be people who are generous with each other, committed to the essentials and united in love.

Mitch Jarvis is the pastor of Neosho United Methodist Church. He writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.