How Did Jesus Bring People Together More Than Ever Before?
- Robert Hampshire Christianity.com Contributing Writer
- 2020 19 Jun
You do not have to look very far through human history to see that we have a consistent pattern of division. From riots to wars to concentration camps, it seems to me that humanity has managed to fight and separate more often than they have been peaceful and unified.
The Bible shows us that it has been that way pretty much from the beginning. In the Book of Genesis, we read that Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, got angry and “rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:8, ESV). The first child ever born killed his only brother (who was the second child to ever be born!). Sadly, it seemed to go downhill from there.
Of course, it makes sense that we are so hateful and divisive when you consider the depravity of humanity. The Apostle Paul describes who we are apart from Christ:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21, NLT).
If that is what we have to work with, no wonder every generation (especially ours today) deals with hatred, division, and racism — it is our nature.
But then someone came along and offered humanity a different way. That man’s name was Jesus. While Jesus’ goal was not just to end social injustices (although many in his day wanted him to), what he accomplished made a way for injustices and sins of every kind to be totally forgiven and overcome. In fact, Jesus did exponentially more to bring people together than anyone else in history — combined!
So, how did Jesus reconcile or bring people together? He did this in at least three ways:
1. Jesus Taught Reconciliation
Jesus’ sermons were challenging to the people in his time for many reasons. One, he taught his followers to love, accept, and forgive not only their friends but even their enemies. He told a parable about a Samaritan that cared for someone in need even when a religious Jew wouldn’t (Luke 10). He described the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast where the host invited strangers from the streets to attend (Matthew 22).
He taught that people who recognized their spiritual poverty and hunger would be blessed instead of those who had it all together (Matthew 6). He said not to retaliate when someone hurts you, but to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5). Even more than that, Jesus raised the bar so high with how we treat others that he said to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Not only did Jesus teach about it, though...
2. Jesus Demonstrated Reconciliation
While the religious people around Jesus were notorious for their hypocrisy, Jesus always “practiced what he preached.” For example, Jesus went out of his way to stop and have a conversation with an ashamed and divorced Samaritan woman in John 4. He rebuked his disciples when they tried to keep children away and welcomed their distraction with open arms (Matthew 19).
He spent time with, talked with, and ministered to a rich tax collector named Zacchaeus, a rough fisherman named Peter, a philosopher named Nicodemus, a woman that had been possessed by demons named Mary, a group of outcast lepers, countless handicapped men and women, and the marginalized of society. To top it off, as he was hanging on a cross dying, himself, he forgave the sins of a convicted criminal.
So, Jesus taught about reconciliation, he demonstrated it, and then...
3. Jesus Made a Way for Our Reconciliation
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the great unifier of humankind. When we look through the lens of the gospel, although we still see skin color, eye color, hair color, clothing style, tattoos, body size and shape, gender, and everything else that is unique about someone, those distinctions no longer influence our love for them.
The gospel calls us to deny ourselves, lose our own life, defer to others, love our neighbor, and forgive our enemies. So, when (and only when) we totally surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, those things that used to divide us no longer matter. As Paul also wrote to the Galatians:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28, ESV).
But to be clear, just because we know what Jesus taught or have studied his life does not mean that we will have what we need to be reconciled to others. That is why even though Jesus did focus on mending human relationships, that is not actually where he started.
Instead, he emphasized that unless we are first reborn spiritually and brought together with God, we will never experience the kind of love that God has for us, which is the only real way that we can be brought close to and love others.
That is the “bad news” side of the gospel. There is an old phrase that says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” That means that no matter who we are, where we are from, what we can do, or what we have, we are “condemned already” simply because we are born into this sinful world as a sinful, depraved person (John 3:18).
But the “good news” is that God saw us in that condemned, depraved state, he loved us anyway, and then he sent his Son to the earth to make a way for all of us to be brought into a relationship with him. Jesus’ death and resurrection make a way for us to be reconciled to God and others.
When we accept what he did for us and receive his gift of salvation, he makes a way for us to move past just talking about ideals of love, forgiveness, peace, and unity and to actually living them out!
How is that possible? Because when we are born again, the Holy Spirit that takes up residence in our hearts yields these things like a tree bearing fruit. As Paul also wrote:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:22-24, ESV).
And Still Does Today
This has so many applications, but especially with racism. When we have been changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then even how we see ourselves and others changes. As the songwriters, Seth and Nirva Ready (an interracial couple themselves) sing in their song “Brother:” “When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother.” But that is only possible through being first brought together and reconciled with God.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/tampatra
Robert Hampshire is the Lead Pastor of Village Church in Churchville, Virginia. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, and now lead pastor. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Pastoring a Village: Sermons, Thoughts, Devos. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the Gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.