Saturday night I closed my eyes to doze a bit while my husband, Derek, drove us home from a family gathering in Gainesville. I had been deep inside my mind, working on my sermon for the following morning. My brain was starting to quiet when I found myself suddenly singing, quietly at first then building. I couldn’t remember the name of the song nor who recorded it, but the words flowed out from some deep recess inside of me. I sat up in my seat and watched the familiar roads and signs of 365 slide by, the words of the song coming to me more quickly.
I smiled and remembered learning to play the tune on the piano as a young teenager. “I haven’t heard this song in a long time. I had forgotten all about it,” I said to Derek.
He replied, “Well, it hasn’t forgotten you.” It most certainly had not.
The DJ filled in the missing details, “That was ‘Love can build a bridge’ by The Judds.” Of course. How could I forget.
I hope you remember this song as well. The refrain says,
“Love can build a bridge
Between your heart and mine
Love can build a bridge
Don’t you think it’s time?
Don’t you think it’s time?”
Generally, I love the arrival of fall. I can’t wait for cool nights and open windows, the proliferation of pumpkins and spiderwebs. But my enthusiasm is dampened this year. It’s midterm election season, one that typically is contentious but feels more so this year than at any other time I remember. The promise of fall as the gateway to holidays entirely about love and thanksgiving starkly stands juxtaposed against the vitriol, hatred, and division championed by the campaigning happening all around us.
I cannot speak to the reasons behind our current love affair with division but I do know that I cannot believe it is of God. In our sinfulness, we have come to prize conflict and aggression. Scarcely do we meet a new person before we assess if they are “with us or against us,” that is, if they agree with our views and ideologies or are a part of the irredeemable other party.
The temptation of division is nothing new. The earliest Christian communities tried to divide themselves as well. The apostle Paul struggled to help the Roman community set aside their obsession with separating the Jews from the Gentiles among them. He wrote to the Romans, encouraging them to set aside their selfish resentments and delineations in favor of working together in kingdom building, rooted in the love of Christ.
To live in a community of love is not to agree with one another all the time or have the same vision for the specifics of the work we should commit ourselves to do together. Indeed, conflict and disagreement are inherent to any relationship. The test of our discipleship is in our ability to stay together as brother and sister and strive to do the will of God regardless of our differences. In fact, our strength can be found in those very differences. They are the things that enrich our community and our corporate understanding of God.
The Judds go on to sing in their song,
“I would whisper love so loudly, every heart could understand
Love and only love can join the tribes of man not trials
I would give my heart’s desire so that you might see
The first step is to realize that it all begins with you and me…
When we stand together, it’s our finest hour
We can do anything, anything
We’re believing in the power”
Despite the animosity that pervades our society, I still hold onto hope. We are resurrection people after all, aren’t we? Imagine if our conversations began rooted in love rather than hatred? What if we started from a desire to understand rather than a desire to debate? I still believe deeply in the power of love to transform us and our community, our world.
On that drive home, my mind and spirit compelled my body to sing out words I had long forgotten and it came as a balm to my soul. May the Spirit move us to reach deep inside to find more messages of hope, connection, love, and redemption, rather than the easily accessed hatred and selfish conceit that fills the air around us. If only we would begin with love, rather than division, even if it starts as a mere whisper.