A House Divided

Not too long ago, my husband and I “cut the cord” and cancelled our cable subscription. It seemed like pretty good timing in one sense–we missed a lot of disturbing news coverage. Of course, you can never really escape such things, and therefore, even without watching the news, I knew all about Charlottesville. And then last week, about Hurricane Harvey. One of the things I definitely knew–no matter what was going on, people weren’t agreeing. 

A few weeks ago at church, we were discussing unity in our morning Bible class, and I shared a thought that struck me. We often tend to look back on the past with rose-colored glasses–that while now is a time of discontent, surely things were better “then”. You know, “then”?

I mean, things were really great in the 50s, right? Yeah… except for that pesky Civil Rights Movement and the fact that we were mistreating our fellow Americans left, right, and sideways. Maybe before that, things were good. Like around the 20s? Oh, wait… suffragists. Okay, fine, rewind another fifty years or so. Oops. Civil War.

It just keeps going, doesn’t it?

I am a resident of Kentucky, and we’re proud of our state motto: United we stand, divided we fall.

It sounds so good. Very simplistic and to-the-point. Our general assembly adopted the motto all the way back in December of 1792. But where did they get the idea?

It’s possible that they took it from “The Liberty Song”, published in the July 1768 Boston Gazette by one John Dickinson, a politician and lawyer from Philadelphia, PA. Dickinson had some experience with unity (or lack thereof), having served as a member of the First Continental Congress, the fifth President of Delaware, and also the fifth President of Pennsylvania (not going to lie, I didn’t know either of those last two were a thing).

Part of “The Liberty Song” goes like this:

“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, dividing we fall,
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.”

But where did Dickinson get his idea from? Perhaps from Aesop, and the fable of the Four Oxen and the Lion:

A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell.  Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that  whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them.  At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field.  Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

United we stand, divided we fall.“  (www.aesopfables.com)

It’s not just the secular world that shares this viewpoint. Mark 3:25 tells us that “if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand”. Matthew 12:25 says, in part, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Luke 11:17 reads much the same.

In fact, the Bible gives us plenty of examples of unity and togetherness. Luke 10:25-37 tells us the story of the Good Samaritan, who steps out of his comfort zone to be kind to someone in need.

That’s not the only example. Rahab, in the book of Joshua, assists the Israelite spies, at great personal risk. Even though they are different from her, she puts her own life on the line to help them and do the right thing.

I think what frustrates me the most about the relative lack of unity in our world is that so much of it is because we are so quick to knee jerk and point fingers (or share that meme or mean post). We stop thinking of others as people and think only that they are someone whose beliefs do not align with ours. We forget what Jesus warned in John 8:7 – “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. We forget Matthew 7 and Luke 6, which warn us to deal with the two-by-four in our own eye before worrying about a speck of dust in our brother’s.

I am trying harder not to judge people; to be universally kind and more considerate of the needs and beliefs of others. I am pointedly sharing fewer and fewer articles and memes. I’m trying to make prayer my first reaction more frequently (so hopefully I need to ask forgiveness less frequently).

It doesn’t hurt me at all to pause and try to understand someone else–their background and the pressures that they are facing. We all need to take a step back and stop sharing things that are divisive and spend more time doing things that edify and unify. Don’t you agree?

Micki Clark is the author of Don’t Ask Me to Leave, a contemporary fiction novel based on the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. The novel is available from Amazon.com and select retailers.

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