Dividing Lines: Beware of “Us vs. Them”

Everywhere you turn today, you see people split into groups: Us vs. them. Conservatives vs. liberals. Vaxxers vs. anti-vaxxers. Tolerant vs. intolerant. Traditional gender views vs. gender non-binary views. CNN vs. Fox News. You’re either with us or against us; there can be no third option. 

The Bible separates people into just two categories as well: those who are in Christ and those who aren’t. But this important distinction does not give us permission to attack people who don’t agree with us. In fact, Jesus told a parable about a religious person who did just that: 

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: 'God, I thank you that I'm not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector . . . ”

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10–11, 13–14 CSB)

For our purposes, the Pharisee of Jesus’ parable could easily be replaced by a modern person of one political persuasion praising God that he was not like that member of the other party. My point is not to condone sin or to endorse a “live your truth” lifestyle. As followers of Christ, we must hold fast to truth. Compromise is not an option. However, we also must remember Paul’s warning to the Corinthian church: “And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3)

We can hold the biblical, orthodox, “correct” view of every issue, whether theological, political, or social; but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. In order to fulfill the Great Commission (which tells us why Jesus left us here in the first place), we must shed the “us vs. them” mentality and remember that even those who disagree with us about the most fundamental of issues are much more similar to us than different. 

We Are Made in the Same Image (Gen. 1:27)

So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. (Gen. 1:27)

Genesis 1 teaches the most foundational tenet of biblical anthropology: humans are made in the image of God. For centuries, theologians have postulated what part of a human, exactly, is the image of God. Our rationality? Our creativity? Our morality? Our eternality? No one quite knows for sure, but one thing is certain: every human being is created in God’s image. However, because of sin, that image has been marred. 

I remember visiting my grandparents’ farm as a kid and marveling at their TV. First, I couldn’t believe that it didn’t have a remote. And second, they got just two channels! (No wonder they played so much pinochle.) The television would get turned on twice a day: once around dinnertime to watch Wheel of Fortune and again at ten o’clock for the local news. I’m not sure how Grandma and Grandpa ever solved any of Pat Sajak’s puzzles, though: the picture was so fuzzy it was hard to tell if it was Vanna White or Santa Claus turning the letters.

The image of God that each of us possesses is like watching Wheel of Fortune on that old TV: the image is there, but it’s fuzzy and distorted. Even those of us who have been redeemed by Christ still bear the scars of the fall; our image-bearing is still imperfect. 

So it is with those in the world whose views differ so drastically from our own. They, too, were created in the image of the Creator. Yes, the image is imperfect—just as it is in you—but it’s there. We abhor crimes like genocide or abortion because they snuff out the life of an image-bearer; but we must also consider that our tongues and Tweets can do the same. 

We Have the Same Problem (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10, 23)

A few months ago, my husband and I welcomed our second child into our family. This auspicious occasion also meant that a good portion of our summer was rather sleep-deprived. It doesn’t surprise you at all to find out that for the first few weeks of her life, my sweet little baby daughter cried in the middle of the night, demanding to be fed. That doesn’t surprise you because she’s a newborn, and that’s just what newborns do. 

Why then is it such a surprise to us when sinners act exactly as you’d expect them to act? 

Since Adam and Eve partook of the fruit that tragic day in Eden, every one of us has had the same problem: our hearts are totally overtaken by sin. Jeremiah describes it this way: 

The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)

We’re all much sicker with sin than we even realize. In fact, the disease is terminal. Thankfully, God did not leave us to deal with our incurable heart by ourselves (we’ll get to that in a minute). However, we must remember that without His gracious intervention, we all have the same problem. 

How quick I can be to forget this. Though I still sin all the time, I still get frustrated that people with no relationship with Christ act like incurably sin-sick people, and I behave like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, thanking God that I’m not like “them.” Maybe I don’t put it in those words exactly, but my attitude toward “them” can be just as calloused and haughty as the Pharisee’s was toward the tax collector. 

When it comes to sin-sickness, there is no “us vs. them.” We all have the same problem. And our problem has just one solution. 

We Need the Same Solution (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 6:9–11)

I’m not sure how much the apostle Paul and I would have had in common, but I do know one glaring difference. I can’t stand run-on sentences, and he pretty much invented them. But we do have one significant similarity as well: we both love lists. Paul made lists for everything: his credentials (Phil. 3), his trials (2 Cor. 11), spiritual gifts (Eph. 4), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). And it seems that nearly every epistle at some point has a list of sins we’re to avoid. In 1 Corinthians 6, it sounds like this: 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9–10 ESV)

We might be tempted to stop there. If ever there was an “us vs. them” passage, this is it! But we must keep reading to really get Paul’s point: 

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11 ESV)

Every person—from Mother Teresa to Adolf Hitler to Donald Trump to Joe Biden to you—bears the image of God that has been poisoned by sin. And there is one antidote: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Chances are pretty good that if you’ve made it this far in this article, you have already accepted the antidote. Praise the Lord, your sin-sickness has been cured. The cure hasn’t taken full effect just yet, but it’s getting stronger all the time. And one blessed day, it will make you perfectly, completely, consummately well. 

That antidote can cure the politician or news personality or social media influencer who bugs you the most as well. It’s their only hope, just as it was yours and mine. 

The people of the world are divided into just two camps: the saved and the unsaved. However, the only thing separating the two is the grace of God. All the people on both sides are essentially the same: we’re all made in the image of God; we’re all hopelessly sinful; and we all desperately need the hope of the gospel. 

So don’t fall into the us vs. them trap. Instead, remember the only real difference between you and that other person is the amazing grace of God. 

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at biblestudynerd.com.

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