When I was in graduate school, I joined a Christian community filled with people who were passionate about their faith. Though I learned a great deal, there were inevitable difficulties. One thing my experience of community life taught me was how fallible even the best-intentioned Christians can be.
I recall one of the leaders making the point that whenever there’s a disagreement, it’s important not to adopt another person’s offense. In other words, if Sarah and Lisa disagree on something and begin arguing, don’t line up behind Sarah and then feel stung by anything Lisa might say to Sarah. Let them have their disagreement, but don’t get sucked in. Sadly, that is exactly what happened to the community. Two of the leaders began to see things quite differently. Or perhaps their disagreements had been there all along and had finally bubbled to the surface. What had started out as a tug-of-war between two individuals quickly morphed into a great, long conga line of people pulling and tugging on the rope until there was so much disagreement that the community finally split apart. Ironically, one of the hallmarks of the community had been its commitment to work toward greater Christian unity.
This dynamic of divisiveness is not uncommon in churches, in the workplace, and with families and friends. Two people argue, and others are drawn into the conflict. A married couple divorces, and friends and family take sides. Siblings stop speaking to each other, and the family is torn.
Of course, there are times when we have to take sides—when something of crucial importance is at stake. But there are many other situations in which adding our two cents to an argument that is already underway will only make things worse.
Someone once said that even Jesus had one prayer that remained unanswered. It was his prayer for unity. Let’s do what we can to help that prayer be realized by refusing to spread the division that comes from getting sucked into someone else’s argument.