Us & Them
A concept that's been on my mind for some time has been what I like to refer to as the "us & them" concept that is found throughout the pages of Scripture. Maybe this was prodded in part from the various interactions with Universalists whom the Lord seems to have placed in my life because he has a sense of humor.
Or maybe it was prompted by the hills-old debate of cur alli prae allis and the occasional skirmishes over election/conversion that take place from time to time on the roiling seas of Twitter. Either way, I believe it is a clear concept if one is to allow the Scriptures to speak as they are. And it prompts some much-needed soul searching as well. Because while we can examine the "us & them" teachings of the Bible, the "us" still need to ask some pretty pointed questions about how we are to feel about the "them." Merely establishing the categories and not praying for and reaching out with the Gospel to the "them" would not only be cold and unloving it would be unscriptural.
Teeth Breaking And Other Classic Davidic Lyrics
For those of you who know tidbits about me, first of all: I'm truly sorry. But if you do know me you know that I have tarried in the extreme metal scene since I was just past the toddler age (it seems). And if you're at all familiar with any of that music—again, I'm sorry—you would know that lyrics can often be dark, violent, death-centered and other generally happy terms of description.
And I'm here to say that some of the "sickest" lyrics in all of music are in the psalms.
One cannot read through the psalms without sensing the "us & them" mentality. And when it comes to dealing with the "them," King David wrote lyrics that even King Diamond would have to tip his top hat to. Now I'm not going to do an exhaustive concordance from the psalter showing every time an instance of "us & them" occurs because that's what boring people like seminary professors or students do. But just take Psalm 58, for example. A classic example of "us & them" as well as a bit of divine irony, in my opinion. If you subscribe to the notion that the headings of the psalms are as much a part of Scripture as the psalms themselves, you are A) right and B) about to understand what I mean.
The heading of Psalm 58 indicates that the psalm was supposed to be accompanied by the tune from "Do Not Destroy." But then the lyrics kick in and the reader thinks maybe the copyists made a mistake and it was supposed to read "Seek And Destroy." The Holy Spirit, through the pen of David, goes on to not only describe the "us & them" but has some pretty visceral requests of what God should do to the "them." Including my favorite line: "Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!" (Psa. 58:6).
Now I know what Jesus said. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Turn the other cheek. And trust me, there will be more on these concepts later provided the ADHD doesn't kick in and I sudd
But the fact of the matter is that the inspired David saw an "us & them" in the world in which he lived. Not everyone was on his team. Not everyone honored God. And, quite frankly, calling for the destruction of the "them" does not immediately imply that God's people—even in antiquity—don't love them. This is a concept I deal with all the time having a parish in the shadow of Fort Bragg. There are Christian soldiers. Plain and simple fact. And they are often called upon to assault and zero out their foes. They also know that, according to their Savior, they are called to love them as well. If this concept was untenable to me, the Lord would not have me here. (REMINDER: Jesus never told the soldiers to stop being soldiers. He told them to be content with their pay.)
Now most of the "us & them" instances in the psalms are usually in the form of the "wicked and the righteous." This article is not intended to flesh out those concepts in great detail. There are other more learned and boring men who have done so. Suffice it to say that wicked=unbeliever and righteous=believer. It is this spiritual concept that I am most concerned with. Basically, in our day and age, those in the Body of Christ and those not. (I can hear the Universalists loading already.) This is an "us & them" concept that has not been foreign to God's people except in recent centuries. There is an us. There is a them. Plain and simple.
Imma Talk About The Them And Then The Us, Romans
In the very first chapter of Pablo's letter to the Romans, he greets the church (as he always does) and then immediately launches into a section on the "them" (See 1:21-32). But then he goes on to call out some of his readers as those who "do the same thing," almost as if he was saying you guys aren't the "us." And here we have one of the key concepts and understandings of what it means to be a non posse non peccare Christian. When we compare ourselves with the "them" of the world, we dare not say that somehow or another we are less sinful, less depraved. We simply admit it. And if we read on into chapter 3, Paul even lumps himself into the "them" language when he asks "What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all!" (3:9).
But as Paul progresses in the letter it becomes quite evident that he wants to address the "us" of the church. And while he makes some pretty blatant and harsh comparisons early on, in no way does he suggest that the "them" and the "us" are the same. Instead, he launches into a discussion on being justified by faith. And the sola fide concept of the Reformation is a clear statement of what separates the "us & them." Faith in the Savior and unbelief. Again, plain and simple.
How To Feel About The "Them"
I could launch into a veritable Bible study on "God wants all men to be saved" and he "so loved the world" and takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked." I could also add Jesus' statements from above about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek. But what I want to focus on is not the "what" but the "how." We know how we should feel about the "them." We should love them. We should ache for them the way Paul even wished he could be cut off from Christ so that every Jew could be an "us."
But if you are saddled with a short fuse, like this one guy I know, the "how" of this is so much more difficult.
It is so much easier to give the proverbial 'one-finger salute' when you see what the "them" have to say about God, the Bible, his creation, his flock, and his institutions of life and family. It is harder to take a moment and pray for them. Sometimes it's in our best interest to do this and NOT engage the "them." Our patience simply won't allow it. And when that happens, it behooves us to pray for them AND us. That they might be enlightened with the Gospel and that we might be blessed with more patience.
My sanctification is best described as "two baby steps forward, five Goliath steps back." I find it best to begin the day asking to be presented with one opportunity where I might pray for and genuinely love a "them." Be they an adherent to a false religion, a nonbeliever, or even an enemy. I also pray for more opportunities to share the Savior with "thems." (And I want to be crystal clear: I am not a gifted evangelist. This is something I need to work on.) My overall point is that it is not enough to simply acknowledge the "what we know" of the Bible about the "us & them."
We know there's an "us & them." We know we're supposed to love even the most difficult of "thems." We know this is often hard to do and needs to be consciously "worked at."
But we never do so without the understanding that, by God's grace and unending mercy, we are the "us." And we were made the "us" at the great price of the suffering, blood, and death of Immanuel. The "one and only Son." The song lyric "Your death is my salvation to a kingdom mine" was written by a "them." But for the "us" that is a true statement in regards to Christ. Because of him alone we will enjoy an eternal bliss with all the "us" of all time.
May this be our constant motivation to see the "them" in a way our Savior God would have us see them. Loved. Deeply.