It seems the world has never been more divided than it is now: liberals v. conservatives, progressives v. traditionalists, globalists v. isolationists, pro-choice v. pro-life, anti-vaxxers v. pro-vaxxers, etc., etc. However one chooses to characterise their view of the world, there is increasing suspicion, distrust and animosity towards those who align themselves to any ‘tribe’ that thinks differently to our ‘tribe’.
While a compelling case could be made that the pace of moral decline is accelerating, the world has been characterised by enmity and strife ever since sin entered into the universe. I don’t just mean the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 3). I mean the original ‘fall’ when Lucifer rebelled against God.
“You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.” (Ezk. 28:14-17a)
Some time after God created them, Adam and Eve exercised their free-will and chose to believe the pride-filled lies of this fallen cherub:
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” ... But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:1,4-5)
Ever since that fateful day, it has been our chief aim in life to be our own gods. We’re convinced that our way is the right way. We want to decide what is best for us. How dare anyone else tell us how to live our lives!
The tragic result of this egocentric mindset is evident on our daily newsfeeds. The human race is ‘racing’ to the bottom of the bottomless pit. We no longer seem capable of having a civil discourse or agreeing to disagree. It’s become a ‘zero-sum’ fight to the death: “agree with me or suffer the consequences!!” We are perfecting the art and science of hate, blame and polarisation. We are finding increasingly novel and effective ways to tear each other down and push each other away.
Sometimes you just want to scream “PLEASE JUST STOP!!”
That’s why Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago. To bridge the divide between us and God so we can have a heart transplant and learn how to love the way we were meant to from the beginning.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezk. 36:25-27)
The spiritual principles behind this literal promise to Israel (cf. Deut. 4:29-31; Rom. 11:25-29) apply to all God’s people through the precious blood of Christ. Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved from the curse of death that came through the first Adam (Rom. 5:12-17). That is what compelled Jesus to step into that boat on the shore of Lake Galilee and tell his disciples to sail to “the other side” (Mark 4:35; Luke 8:22).
The “other side” was a culturally specific colloquialism used by Galileans for the Gentile side of the lake. Jesus wasn’t just randomly going for a pleasure cruise the way we go for a Sunday drive in the countryside. No, Jesus was on a mission. A very specific and important mission. Jesus was taking the Good News to the “other guys” on the “other side”.
On the Eastern side of Lake Galilee was a region known as the Decapolis. According to the MacArthur Study Bible, the Decapolis wasa confederation of 10 Hellenized cities south of Galilee and mostly east of the Jordan. The league of cities was formed shortly after Pompey’s invasion of Palestine (c. 64 b.c.) to preserve Greek culture in the Semitic region. These cities were naturally Gentile strongholds, which 1st. Century Jews viewed with pious contempt.
Jesus was demonstrating selfless grace and compassion. He was ‘reaching across the aisle’ socially, politically and religiously. He was leading by example. An example of which we are in desperate need today.
The impact of this act of love was significant on both a micro and a macro scale.
A man terrorised by demons was released from spiritual bondage. So profound was the man’s supernatural transformation that the locals were terrified by Jesus’ power.
I shudder to think how I would have responded to that cave-dwelling, demon possessed deranged outcast. I doubt I would have disembarked from the boat! In fact, I wouldn’t have gone to the ‘other side’ to begin with.
I confess that I am by nature a judgemental, conflict averse, creature of comfort. I like to judge others from the relative safety and comfort of my side of the lake, interacting with the ‘other guys’ on my own terms. I try to keep things as clean and clinical as possible.
Perhaps you can relate to some extent. It takes great courage and grace to cross to the other guy’s side and meet them on their terms. It takes empathy and effort to seek to understand their position and offer sincere help in their time of need. It takes supernatural love to do all of this when you know they don’t even like you or agree with your world view. But that is the example Jesus gave us to follow.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-8)
And what was the macro result of this uncanny love demonstrated by the carpenter’s son from Nazareth?
“As (Jesus) was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged Him that he might be with Him. And He did not permit him but said to him, 'Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” (Mark 5:18-20)
Do people marvel at what Jesus has done in our lives? Are we serving as a living testimony of the transformative power of God’s love in this broken world? Maybe it’s time we make a greater effort to ignore the Serpent’s lies, swallow our pride and take a ride to the ‘other side’. In the midst of all the ‘fake news’, we have Good News to share. Good News that the world desperately needs to hear.
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!'” (Rom. 10:14-15)