Faith Matters - Going purpleSome years ago our daughter spent an afternoon with a friend and brought home news about a rule at her friend Annie's church camp.
By: Kent Stillson, Pastor, Alexandria Echo Press
Some years ago our daughter spent an afternoon with a friend and brought home news about a rule at her friend Annie's church camp.
Our daughter explained the "no purpling rule" this way.
"Boys are blue and girls are pink. Put those two colors together, and it becomes purple." No "purpling" allowed at 5th and 6th grade camp.
Boys and girls are not allowed to hold hands, be in each other's cabins or hug. Furthermore, every kid at camp has the responsibility to confront the offending boy and girl and declare, "No purpling!"
This story became one of our family jokes. We'd send our kids off to a ball game or school and remind them, "No purpling!" Our kids knew what we meant and rolled their eyes.
"No purpling" may be a good rule for adolescent boys and girls, but this "no purpling" attitude causes great division in society.
Jesus prays for unity in John 17, but in reality we are more divided. Paul warns the early Christians in Galatians 3 there was to be no divisions among them, but separation deepens among us - wealthy and poor, white and black, gay and straight, liberal and conservative.
In his prayer for unity, Jesus prays for us to "go purple" - to bring red states and blue states together and make purple states. He desires for believers and non-believers, Democrats and Republicans, East and West and any other division you can think of to find common ground rather than focusing on differences.
This is radical stuff, but it is what Jesus desires.
Three principles will help our quest for unity.
First, God loves all. Not just you and me and people who think and act and believe like us. "For God so loved the world," says John 3:16. Then Jesus proceeded to act out that love for all. He touched the untouchable lepers. He ministered to the despised of society. He lifted up as hero the outcast Samaritan.
We need to follow Jesus' lead and strive to love all.
Second, unity does not mean sameness. It does not mean we lose our identity. God created us with differences. Jesus desires a unity that brings the differences together to make a stronger whole.
Music provides a great example. The richer sound is not one note but a chord made up of several notes. The individual notes are in harmony and make a bigger, fuller sound than separately. This is the unity Christ is praying for us to have, not sameness but harmony.
Third, unity has a chance only when people are in relationships. It's harder to hate someone who is sitting across the table or sharing a meal. It's harder to mistrust someone when you see the humanity in the other - when you know their joys and sorrows, their hopes and fears, their family stories.
Relationship language fills the New Testament. The phrase "one another" occurs no less than 35 times in phrases such as love one another, bear with one another, serve one another. Being in relationships with those different from us is crucial in building unity.
The "no purpling" rule may be good for youth camp but for the rest of the world it breeds suspicion, hatred and violence. Go purple! It's Jesus' prayer for us.
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Kent Stillson is a pastor at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Alexandria. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.