So says the sticker on the boot of my car. It identifies me as part of a tribe. I’m a supporter of Ospreys rugby union team. Every other week I head down to the Liberty Stadium with 6,000 other people to watch gentlemen play a ruffian’s game.
I will shout, complain, throw every ball and live every scrum during those 80 minutes. I will support my team whatever the outcome.
If other people see the sticker, they know I am part of a tribe. That means we can have knowing conversations or some friendly banter depending on their affiliations. My sticker and my choice of team are one way of identifying myself to others. They could draw specific conclusions about me as a result of this information.
I’m a member of other tribes too;
Apple users. I have an iPhone, iPod, iPad and a Macbook.
I’m British. My mum is Scottish, my dad is English and I live in Wales.
I like black coffee. Lattes are an offence to humanity.
…… what conclusions you choose to draw are up to you!
Being part of a tribe can be great. Until our very recent history it was essential for our survival. In the 21st Century being linked with other people is still a vital part of our society and personhood. It can bring security, common purpose and a safe space to grow. The feeling of being involved in a team of people, all moving with cohesive purpose can be intoxicating. When the Ospreys score a try, the noise and emotion of 6,000 fans all celebrating at once is hugely emotive.
But it isn’t all good. Being part of a tribe can cause problems. Tribes by their very nature are exclusive. They have the potential to create division and limit our horizons. At their worst, tribal attitudes create an ‘us verses them’ approach that damages others and ourselves.
It is fair to say the church doesn’t have the best record in this department, which is tragic when you consider our main aim should be growing in love for God and for others.
When we indulge in an ‘us verse them’ attitude in faith, it damages our unity, and therefore our ability to represent the Kingdom as Jesus would want us to. God exists in perfect unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Community, flow and love. In the gospel of John, we see Jesus prayed that his followers would be united like this as well.
“The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.”
We cannot become ‘one in heart and mind’ if we are constantly splintering off from one another. Valuing our differences more highly than what unites us limits our capacity for love, inhibits our ability to be a positive influence in the world and stops us from reaching our potential in Christ.
Secondly, and more significantly, an ‘us verses them’ attitude keeps others out of the Kingdom. When we create an exclusive, inward-looking faith, it disregards others. It makes us a club, not a movement. It makes it harder for people to believe Jesus’ message.
Let’s not look to create barriers between ourselves and other believers. So we have different views about end times, gifts of the spirit or the atonement. Surely it isn’t worth dividing the Kingdom over?
Showing love for one another despite our differences is a far more powerful demonstration of God’s grace than endlessly dividing over points of doctrine that no-one beyond the four walls of our church knows or cares about.
Most importantly let’s not exclude people from the fullness of life that comes from knowing Jesus because they don’t fit our pre-conceived ideas about who belongs in the Kingdom.
God’s love is unconditional and his Kingdom is inclusive. Jesus demonstrated this clearly during his life. He shocked religious types by welcoming ‘unclean’, ‘unsuitable’ people into his movement and ultimately into his Kingdom.
Let’s then be filled with grace, united with each other and united with God, in order that the world might believe