Sports fans are some of the most dedicated people in the world. Their allegiance to tho their favorite teams is unparalleled. Sports fans adorn themselves with the jerseys of their favorite players. They save up their funds to purchase season tickets to games. The best time of year to see a display of fanaticism is the time leading to the Superbowl. Throughout the weeks leading up to the game, I have seen Giants fans and Patriots fans sling mud at one another over Facebook, in arguments at sporting events, and even at home. On Sunday, however, across the country Giants and Patriot fans will sit in the same living room, or at the same restaurant to view the game together. They will not be sitting together because they are supporting the same team. They will be sitting together because even though they are on different teams, they share a common love for the game.
It is no secret that many institutions in our nation do not operate at their best level of potential because of division. In fact, many of the problems in our world exist because the people who have the capability to fix such problems, are busy taking sides instead of working to fix the issues. In no other institution is this issue more prevalent than in the Christian church.
Throughout history, Christians have been guilty of inflicting hurt and violence all in the name of "God". From the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries to religious conquest and Imperialism, Christians have in many instances done more damage than bettering the world for the cause of Christ. Though there are no men riding on horses with swords in their hands today, members of the church have been guilty of hurting the environments around them by saying hurtful words, or simply not engaging with and being kind to people who dot believe the same convictions, religious values, or ideals as they. This occurs because many people believe that in order to love and work with someone else, they have to agree with him or her and be just alike. This is not true, and it is also not what Christ wanted his followers to do. The key to unity is not to agree on everything, but to agree on one basic principle, or find one area of common ground and let love cover the rest.
This idea of love as a means to unity is an idea that Christ presented often in his teachings, and demonstrated in his living. In Luke 15, when Jesus sat down to eat, sinners and unbelievers joined his table. He did not get up abruptly or indignantly, appalled to be in the presence of those who were the exact opposite of him, but he sat there and engaged with them. In biblical times, sharing a meal was more than just casual exchange; it symbolized a type of spiritual fellowship. In other words, for those few moments, Jesus formed a spiritual relationship with people who did not believe in him. The same chapter in Luke goes on to record how the religious leaders of the time began to scoff at Jesus about his kind dealings with sinners. Jesus shared with them that it made more sense for him to engage with those who did not believe, than to only fellowship with believers, so that unbelievers could see an image of God, and come to know him through love. Jesus understood that the proper way to convey the true love of God, was to show it. The love that he possessed enabled him to interact with people who did not believe, people who did not know about religion, and even people who hated him.
The reason many Christians result in hurtful behavior or practices is that they feel like every one who is not a Christian is their enemy. This also is not a concept that Jesus presented. In John 3:16, Jesus presented the concept that God loved the entire world so much that he sent his son. This is the age when the people of God must show love to everyone, whether we are all the same or not. God has placed gifts, talents, and unique abilities in all of us, not just those in the church. I believe whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ is the way, and that his word is the truth, but that should never stop me from embracing someone with love who may not believe as I do; it never stopped Christ. We must see people as God sees them: as children of God. Christ never put agreement as a stipulation for love. In fact, love can become a foundation for agreement. The more we love, the easier it will be to find common ground, and more people will come to know Christ. We may not agree on how the country should be run, or which interpretation of scripture is correct, or even which team will win the Superbowl this year, but with a common love for humanity, we can all fellowship and coexist together.