Us and Them – Don Merritt

“There is never just my answer” …

a) Julia: “What have we done with the Christian message to evoke this response?”
b) Denine: “I am not sure what she believes exactly. They call her a “new age spiritualist” which kind of scared me.”

Further to inviting extended thoughts and “comments” to be added as their own posts: … here is the first response. As promised it has not been edited or changed in any way. And as this is (hopefully) the first of a number of such posts, not is there any additional commentary from me. Please join the conversation in any way you like!

And, with my sincere thanks, take it away Don!

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Don Merritt: The Life Project –

What a great post Paul, and what awesome comments! Even though not everyone has said the same thing in their comments, they are all correct, and that is why “us and them” as a concept isn’t simple. Oh the Bible is simple on this, as it usually is, but the hard part is that we all take the expression “us and them” to mean something different, as you might see in the comments; little shades of variance, points of view a couple of degrees different.

In the Old Testament, there was a big dividing line between peoples, from the point of view of the authors, for there were Jews and Gentiles; everything fit into this context, and you were either one or the other. If you were a Jew, you were a “good guy” one of God’s chosen, one of God’s precious ones. If you were a Gentile, you were dirty, unclean, hopeless and unworthy; a dog.

Then Jesus comes along…

After His resurrection from the grave, everything changes; the old dividing line is eliminated… but a new one came into existence:

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

Now, there are two kinds of people, those who are “in Christ” and those who are not. As we who are in Christ look at this question, we tend to see things from the point of view of the Body of Christ, and we might see “us and them” as Methodists and Baptists, and of course there are over zealous ones among us who will get carried away with differences in doctrine to create division, but this is not what Jesus was talking about in Luke 12. Over and over the New Testament tells us not to get involved in that kind of thing; we are to love one another, and within the Body of Christ there is no “us” and there is no “them” there is only “in Christ.”

Yet we must not overlook the fact that there are many more who are outside of the Body of Christ, for it is for these that we are called to service. The biggest difference between the Old Testament and the New is that while a Gentile was hopelessly lost, a non-Christian is welcome to join “the family” any time he wishes, and we are tasked with extending to him our loving invitation. Yes, this person is that neighbor we are supposed to love, and this point is another one that helps to make this discussion confusing. The man or woman who is not “in Christ” is not our enemy, but there is still a division between us, a division pretty much put in place by that very neighbor.

Shame on those of us who point at them and denounce them, on those of us who look at them in derision, for to do so vastly exceeds the scope of our engagement; it is for God alone to judge. Yet that distinction is there, and the clock is ticking on God’s period of grace.

It is for this very reason that we are called to make every effort to extend His love to “them” so that they might have an opportunity to receive His love and join with “us” in building His Kingdom.

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Thank you again, Don.


17 thoughts on “Us and Them – Don Merritt

  1. That’s a good response to the question of “us and them.” Amen. No one is rejected in God’s eyes. As C.S. Lewis says, we put ourselves outside. But our outrageously loving Father wants the “them” to be loved enough to be invited inside, to the party, so that they can be “us” too! 🙂

    • Mel, thank you (and apologies for the delay in responding: we had a bug go through the family like wildfire – no us and them involved – it was all “us”!) 🙂

      Love the outside/inside phrase!

  2. Oh dear, I am going to throw you one of my smelly socks again! Please take this as honest debate.
    God’s message of “us” and “them” is not so clear cut in the Hebrew Scriptures in my understanding.
    There are numerous instances of foreigners (or gentiles) touched by God. One of my favourite miracle stories is in 2 Kings ch 5; the healing of Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram. I think that a significant part of the story is that he was a foreigner; and that he was held in high regard by those who served under him and over him. In the book of Jonah, the Lord asks Jonah to prophesy to Nineveh. ( I think that is a foreign city?) When out at sea, (literally and metaphorically) Jonah’s fellow sailors (foreigners) are in awe of the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.
    There are other instances of foreigners used by God or blessed by God and even given prophesies and warnings. Perhaps people who were not Jews were expected to know God’s commands too.
    Perhaps those who showed faith, helped God’s people or repented of their wrong doing were also part of the “us” in the Hebrew Scriptures?

    • Hiya Julia – sorry for being slow (please my note under Mel’s comment).

      Thank you for the sock! Please send another – I need pairs!! 🙂

      The only response from me is this: always in regard to our use of “universal words” like us and them, will be a “label” or generic use of the word. And with anything generic comes exceptions. In specific examples perhaps the message is that we never were us and them. Yet … when we look at the label of the Chosen People or the Gentiles or The Pharisees or the never ending supply of ologies – always there seem to be implicit (and explicit) division.

      Perhaps what we have done with the Christian message is too often miss the subtle distinction made by Mel and Don: “we put ourselves outside. But our outrageously loving Father wants the “them” to be loved enough to be invited inside, to the party, so that they can be “us” too!” … “we are called to make every effort to extend His love to “them” so that they might have an opportunity to receive His love and join with “us” in building His Kingdom.”

      I always think that “extending love” and “converting” are the same as chalk and cheese!! 🙂

  3. What an awesome response from Don. Reading all this with great interest. Glad you started it, Paul. It will generate much discussion, that, I do know. Excellent page. Us and Them. That’s got me thinking!

    • There are neat – and clarifying distinctions – coming out of this conversation for me. My own preference is to veer on the side of love and inclusivity – for the subtle distinctions can too often be taken (by everyone) as imposed and maintained barbed wire fences – keeping “love” very firmly in the background. Which shoves God into a warzone.

      • Very well put. Gonna keep this safe. I’m not proposing to nick anything, but if the Lord delights, I might write my own page. Nice going, Brother. Love the way you link with people.

      • As Don says: no copyright so long as no selling it (he says it so much better than my paraphrase!) 🙂

        So thank you – this church continues to inspire by its genuine affection!

  4. This is good, Paul. What most people who refer to themselves as Christians forget is that God created every person “in His image”. This makes ALL people very special indeed. For those not “in Christ”, they will learn of Him by the love and the sharing of Christian people. Well done my brother!!!! 🙂

    • Levi – thank you. What is lovely to see is the affection and love displayed in the words. A conversation not only sharing our Lord, but shared in a way I hope He applauds as well. All in all – there is only all! 🙂

  5. Great start, Don! “Shame on those of us who point at them and denounce them, on those of us who look at them in derision, for to do so vastly exceeds the scope of our engagement; it is for God alone to judge.” So well written. Direct and to the point. “Welcome. Join the family.” Yes, that is our task, to light the way for those who choose and who God empowers to do so.

    • Hiya Susan – and thank you. There is the gift of getting to the point, and there is the gift of running around the point (which is here somewhere). Both you and Don share the former!! What is gorgeous to read in all of this is the respect, affection and inclusivity! A real display of what this is all about!!

  6. Hey Paul? about water- God’s water cycle??? Fountain of the lamb, dry dust land. Plants need water, evaporation, praise going up. Rains on us. Washing renewing- I don’t know what I am saying exactly, but felt like The Lord put it on my heart to share with you. If not,please disregard. Love and blessings!

    • Hiya Denine, I was reading Paula’s post went away and got a “fact” which I thought would fit. It didn’t.
      But it seems to here.
      That word cycle – the very stuff of change, renewal, new life, over and over. We never have “got it” and we never “have it”. Because round it goes again. Another cycle of renewal. Another chance to get it. Then another cycle.
      That fact? What you see looking back at you is a new you every twenty eight days. New skin. Every twenty eight days. Renewed. Refreshed. Rebirthed.
      Your words are inside that. And I am sure there is a reason. There always is. Connecting. Just not sure why or what either.
      I love not having to “get it” to our timetable!! 🙂
      Thank you for listening and sharing.
      Because my words don’t make much sense yet either.

      • That’s how it seems to work for me too. Bits and pieces here and there then suddenly it all comes together. Just say down to work on my next post from it all coming together then “light bulb” the “Got it” and it goes around again and building on and building up. Love the light bulb moments. The learning the growing the sharing. The connecting. Blessings!

      • Ps I really like the addition of the 28 cycle interesting! Still don’t know where we are going either but it sure has my interest!

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