The temptation of tribalism.
Talking about unity in the church can be an exercise in frustration when we begin to work it out in everyday life. Our culture looks with suspicion upon someone who will live in relationship with another person they vehemently disagree with, mostly because if we were honest we would rather spend our time with people who are more like us.
One of the temptations is to give an intellectual nod to unity by offering verbal support for others, such as differing denominations in a single community, without crossing the barrier and actually doing the hard work of relationship. This form of tribalism plagues the church, and unfortunately limits the ways in which God’s people can be effective in any given community.
When you couple the temptation to be with people who are like me, with a consumer driven culture that says we should all be able to have it our way, whatever the “it” is, we find the rise of tribalism among Christian communities. Sure we might have moved passed the days of running down other denominations and for the most part we no longer believe that the various denominations in the world represent “sect Babylon” out of which we must come to experience the one true expression of God’s people, but do we see the people in the church down the street as our brothers and sisters in Christ?
No really, I mean do you know what they believe about creation? Did you hear what their pastor said recently about men and women, and can we take them seriously when they showed THAT video clip during church last Sunday?
Are we still ready to serve alongside one another?
Are we still going to actively seek relationships with people of the neighboring churches to say, “How can we be the love of Christ in this community together?”
We do well to recall Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 1, in which he calls Christians to move beyond the simple identification with a certain leader or group, and remember that our unity is found in Christ alone. Moving toward that goal calls us to approach one another humbly and remember that there are on tribes in the Kingdom of God, only brothers and sisters in Christ.
How do you think churches in your community could begin to work together in order to combat the temptation of tribalism?