This expression seems to be outdated. What does it really mean? It means a Venn diagram like the one above.
Ok, I guess I need to elaborate.
Pastor Hamilton, in Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, says in today’s warring culture, we are so polarized that we are unwilling to listen to others. We don’t want to acknowledge that other people have something worthwhile to say. “We talk past one another, but seldom really attempt to learn from one another or to see if there is any place where despite our difference, we might come to find common ground.”
The common ground is represented by the red area in the diagram above. Common ground does exist; we just have forgotten that it does.
I don’t care how much we differ in our society today; there are interests we all hold dear that supersede our differences. We could call them core values. Let’s look at a sampling of these values for America.
Individualism: we cherish our right to be unique in our world today; the right to be who we are rather than a carbon copy of everyone else.
Equality: we cherish the effort we make to treat everyone the same, no matter what their station in life.
Material wealth: we feel that a goal in our society is to work to make ourselves physically comfortable and well off.
In recent years, there is an increasing respect for Science and Technology; Americans are pretty obsessive about their gadgets.
Progress and change: the idea that change is good and progress is good is a sign that we are accomplishing something. This is a widely accepted ideal.
Most Americans feel Competition is a good thing. We want to be number one and are willing to work hard to be in first place.
We value Mobility, both physical mobility and social mobility. We like being on the move.
We are a Volunteering society; when people have needs, we step up to help them meet those needs.
Americans are Action and Achievement Oriented with an emphasis on getting things done. We like to plan and set goals, come up with practical solutions; we are a pragmatic people and we admire results.
How many of you feel like these core values represent you? If they do seem important, we need to recognize that these ideas bind us together as Americans. They may even be our common ground.
In recent years, politics and political rhetoric have emphasized the great divide between warring political views but it was not always that way. Democrats and Republicans could work together in the past and get something done. They treated each other with respect and thought of each other as colleagues and they put the country first, instead of focusing on their own narrow self-interests.
They emphasized the idea that they were Americans first, Democrat and Republican second.
After speaking of common ground in politics, let’s change our focus to church. Recently, I heard two church members make comments about worship style. One member talked about another church in our town whose members expressed concern about applause in church. What was the problem? The applause was deemed disrespectful by some in the church because it interrupted some of the reverence they felt in their pew. My prayer is that this church overcomes this problem because it seems to be a small matter. Some want to show appreciation and others do not.
Another church member expressed concern about church members saying “amen” in worship service. The idea is the amen disturbs their reverence in their pew. Maybe the person who was saying amen was sincerely expressing heart of worship, not merely trying to draw attention to themselves. My attitude is who knows a person’s heart? Often I assume that something like this is genuine and maybe it is their Holy Spirit telling them to participate by encouraging the pastor with a little exhortation.
These are both hopefully minor matters; people can get past them. If people seek common ground.
What can help people do that? Emphasize that we are all followers of God and his Son Jesus Christ and that holds us all together. We are a family: 1 Timothy 3:15, “I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church”. “You will all be joined together, and you will give glory to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God” (Romans 15:6-7).
What do we have in common that will make these differences go away? We are Christians; we are followers of God and His Son Jesus Christ.
This is important common ground, the idea that we all belong to the body of Christ.