Words come and go.
By that I mean that the times we live in can create words, the technology, the culture, the politics of the time. Today, America is going through a time when people line up against each other, democrat vs republican, liberal vs conservative, Fox viewer vs MSNBC viewer.
That’s the word that is so popular today. The word “tribe” has been around since Roman times. It meant a division within a state. Over time, tribe came to mean a social group existing before the development of a state, distinct people who depend on the land for their livelihood, self-sufficient to the point that they were not part of a national society.*
Today, it has taken on the meaning that a person belongs to a tribe and all people within that tribe are without fault. Folks belonging to other “tribes” are wrong, misguided, dangerous to be around, illogical etc.etc.
Mark Labberton addresses tribes in his book The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor. He cites Philippians 2: 10-11: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father.”
Every knee should bend. Did you get it?
There is no group that is right or wrong. God supersedes all the divisions that man creates.
None of us is perfect. None of us have the view that God has. We all get caught up in the happenings of the day. We all forget that for Christians, the name of Jesus is what names us. We forget that our true identity should be all wrapped up in Jesus Christ. For people who don’t identify with Christianity, that is ok. They can claim that their identity is not wrapped up in Jesus and if they are not believers, their point is well taken. But what about the tribes that are occurring today in the Christian community, Christian pitted against Christian according to “tribal guidelines.”
Labberton states “the Jesus of the Gospels transforms lives by truth-telling….The biblical purpose of the revelation of this ultimate reality is not to breed passivity now but to shape life today in light of the fact that this is creation’s kingdom future.” This is the mission of the Christian; to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. This tells us what matters in life. Labberton has written a book several years before today’s cultural climate but he states his case in the words: “our mission…distinguishes the tribe from the kingdom” and makes loving God and our neighbors a top priority. This mission helps us “recognize the urgent and define the essential.”
“Tribal” behavior in our culture is a word that has come and I hope the current meaning goes. Life is too difficult for our society to be divided up into pockets of like-minded people who denigrate other groups. I live in a state in the United States that has a motto which encourages cooperative behavior. Kentucky’s motto is “United We Stand; Divided We Fall”. I wonder if the same motto should be adopted by all people in the Christian community.
Hold on, maybe we have a motto already, one that fits perfectly with the first and second commandment.
It is found in John 13:34 and it goes like this: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
*Wikipedia “The history of the word tribe”