Thursday, April 25, 2019

Finding Unity in a World Divided

Five men from very different backgrounds united by Jesus and a common cause.
Almost every day we’re reminded of how divided our nation has become. At least, how divided the mainstream media, educators and politicians seem to think we are. Whether the dividing lines are race, gender, politics, economic status or worldview, these divisions are beyond healing.

Or so we’re told.

Several weeks ago, I attended a weekend retreat where such claims were debunked massively. Five men from Minnesota – guests speakers for the gathering – served as living examples that the supposed divisions our society not only can be transcended, but are in fact being transcended. Through the healing, redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

These men included Tom, a trauma and acute care surgeon, accompanied by his son, Jack; John, a former gang leader and drug dealer; Dennis, a longtime drug addict, dealer and member of one of the most notorious motorcycle gangs in the country; and Jesse, a man in his 30’s whose life had spiraled from drinking alcohol to using prescription drugs to methamphetamine to selling meth. 

John, Dennis and Jesse all had spent considerable time in jails and prisons. However, at one time being convicted felons was the only thing they shared in common. Then they each, through very different circumstances, came to know Jesus Christ and began to see their lives transformed. 

An African-American who has overcome “four generations of father absence,” John admitted that before Christ he would never have associated with any of the other men. The only way a black gang member would get to know a surgeon, he said, was by being shot and treated in an emergency room. Dennis said the men he once ran with in the motorcycle gang would have had nothing to do with inner city gang members. The same was true for Jesse. For Tom, the only time his life intersected with people like his now-companions was at the trauma center when he typically would be using his medical expertise to make life-and-death decisions.

Yet there they were, meeting with 16 other men in a cabin alongside a lake near Dunlap, Tenn. They came as brothers in Jesus Christ and co-laborers in a vital mission field. Drawing not only from skill but also personal experience, they are praying for – and receiving – many opportunities to show drug addicts, gang members and ex-offenders that there’s a path to a better life. A path that’s only possible through the life-changing power of Jesus.

The stories of how God is working through their lives and ministries to redeem lost souls often border on the unbelievable. Except they’re true. But the way the Lord has taken such diverse individuals and molded them into kindred spirits is just as incredible.

How such unity, such brotherly love, is possible in a world that insists that it isn’t is described by the apostle Paul in the Scriptures. It’s uncomplicated really, no rocket science required: 
“If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).

Since each man had come to faith as an adult, they could boldly attest to the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Watching and hearing from these men, there was no question this had become reality in their lives. These “new creations” now are united, mutually devoted to serving others and pointing them to the only real solution for escaping the chains of their past, their addictions and wrongdoings: Jesus Christ.

Is our world divided? In many respects it is. But it doesn’t have to be. Two of these men have even written books to share their stories in detail. As our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. argue and battle over secular answers for society’s ills, perhaps Dr. Tom Blee’s book, How to Save a Surgeon, and John Turnipseed’s book, Bloodline, should be required reading for them. Maybe they’d come to realize they’ve been looking for answers in all the wrong places.

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