Andy Stanley, a pastor in Atlanta, says “Difference is inevitable, but division is a choice.”
Our nation has clearly chosen division. Tragically, the Christian Church seems to have made the same choice.
I believe difference is not just inevitable: It is beautiful. God uniquely knit each of us together, and His vision is that we would be unified in our diversity.
In fact, unity without diversity isn’t unity at all…It’s uniformity. That’s easy. And it’s boring. God has called us to something much harder and more beautiful. He has called Hope College to be a beacon of hope to the world, and one way we can live into this calling is by modeling this kind of unity.
At the Critical Issues Symposium earlier this fall, I introduced this concept known as Hope’s “Middle Way,” and I shared a little about why I believe this is where Hope should be.
There’s a passage from the Bible that has been on my heart in support of this. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he says this:
19Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
He is saying some remarkable things in that passage. First, he is putting himself underneath everyone. He’s making himself a “slave to everyone”. In other words, he is serving others as a way of leading them. He then lists these different categories and says he becomes like a Jew to the Jews…like those under the law to those under the law…like one not under the law to those not under the law…weak to the weak.
One might read that, especially in today’s context, and say, “Pick a side Paul! We need to know where you stand!” At the end of this list of categories, Paul then says, “I want to be all things to all people.”
That’s where he stands! And that is exactly where Hope College needs to be. All things to all people. Why? Because all people need hope.
If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that everything seems broken right now. Nothing in our world seems to be working. Hope is needed in all corners of creation…and all corners of every human heart…and at every point along every ideological spectrum.
And it’s our job to bring that hope, in Jesus’s name, to those places. We can’t do that if we’ve allowed ourselves to be boxed in. We can’t risk alienating half the people in this country by positioning ourselves as right or left politically. We can’t allow ourselves to be defined by the categories of this world. We can’t let ourselves be labeled as one thing, but not the other. We have to be all things, to all people, in order that we might win some.
Admittedly, some may see this middle way as being nothing more than a politically-expedient compromise. And compromises are often the worst outcome of all. They are advertised as being a way for both sides to get what they want, but in reality, that’s usually unattainable. A compromise is actually when neither side gets what it wants, which means settling for a reality which no one wants.
This doesn’t have to be the case here at Hope.
For example, I am NOT suggesting that we as individuals must be “in the middle” on every political, ideological or theological issue. To the contrary, we should each hold our own convictions, and I hope you do! What I am saying is that institutionally we will not tilt to a particular side and that we will remain “in the middle.”
This means we can’t condemn those who hold different convictions. And we can’t ask that Hope College pick a side and align with one group’s conviction. As soon as that happens, we’ve lost our middle way.
We can be a community held together by a common set of convictions about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Around the core Christian beliefs, as expressed in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, there is a lot of room for disagreements on political, ideological and theological issues.
At Hope, we won’t choose division. We will follow Jesus.