Partnerships. There’s a word often heard, seldom practiced in today’s complex, individual-obsessed, ego-driven world. It’s like the two millennials having a coffee together. One millennial says to the other, “OK, enough about me. What do you think of me?” Millennials, that is no criticism against you. Every generation has done the same thing.
Life in today’s world requires partnerships. Let me illustrate with this true story.
During the 1800s, a famous organist traveled from town to town across America giving concerts. It was in the days of the old pump organs, so in each town, he hired a boy to work the pump behind the organ during the concert. After a performance in one town, he couldn’t shake the young boy he’d hired.
As the organist walked toward his hotel, the boy beamed up at him. “We sure had a great concert tonight, didn’t we?”
“You mean I had a great concert tonight,” replied the maestro. “You only pumped the organ. Now go home.”
The next night, the organist gave another concert in the same town. Once again, the boy worked the bellows behind the scenes. The opening piece of the concert was a beautiful fugue by Bach. But as the performer masterfully attacked the notes of the second piece, the music suddenly stopped, his rapid fingering bringing nothing more than a faint clicking sound from the keyboard.
That is when the little boy stuck his head around the corner of the organ, smiled and said to the maestro. “We aren’t havin’ a very good concert tonight, are we?”
The problem is our society requires teamwork and talks teamwork, but people live individually or tribally. By “tribally,” I mean people function within a small group, surrounded by people whose beliefs and outlook become increasingly extreme and homogeneous with little variation. Each tribe tends to pronounce their beliefs on social media, attempting to convince others of the superiority of their views. Generally, it’s not unity holding them together; it’s conformity. Unity becomes impossible when opposing tribes insist everyone believe as they believe.
The world, including the United States, is struggling with unity and partnerships in this polarized political climate. Some believe the United States of America is not the United States of America anymore. It’s the “un-united states” of special interest groups. That’s what happens when “a” group thinks it is “the” group. No cooperation. No negotiation. Only humiliation. Then domination. That’s a one-way street to the dark side. I call this process, “relationships, ‘deflation-ships,’ battleships and ‘abandon-ships.’” Engagement ring, wedding ring, then suffer-ring. It becomes a three-ring circus.
God, in His wisdom, created the nation of Israel from 12 tribes. Those 12 tribes came from 12 brothers descended from one father, Jacob. Just like any family, each of those 12 brothers was uniquely different from his siblings. Each brother’s tribe had different personalities, callings and outlooks. Each tribe was distinctive. Yet each tribe was part of the same family. Families are not franchises.
Each tribe had a measure of grace, but it didn’t have grace without measure. When the 12 tribes came together in the Promised Land, they became a nation. Twelve measures of grace became one nation with grace without measure. That’s called “inter-gracing.”
Nations are much stronger than tribes. God knew that together they would be a formidable nation, but each, individually, was a worm on a hook, especially when attacked by another nation. Don’t get me wrong. Nations have values, beliefs and borders, too, but nations’ beliefs are much broader and more diverse than individual tribes’ beliefs.
Today’s challenge is that heaps of little tribes all want to represent the nation. They want the nation to conform to their own image. Most mean well but don’t see beyond their special interests. That’s not liberty and justice for all, at all. Please understand it’s not the exaltation of a certain emphasis or the elimination of opposing emphases that makes our nation mighty. It’s the integration of emphases that strengthens our nation, drawing power from what each has to offer.
Any country or church is like a battleship. It takes time to turn a battleship. It will take understanding and it will take patient perseverance. God designed it that way. The Scriptures say, “By faith and patience you inherit the promises ….” Nations, churches and organizations are like sheep. You don’t drive sheep, you lead sheep. You can draw people into partnership, but you can’t push them. Our differences aren’t meant to compete, but to complete one another.
So, where do we go from here? Author Chuck Swindoll gives us some sage advice on this:
“Nobody is the whole team. Each one is a player. But take away one player and the game is forfeited. Nobody is a whole orchestra. Each one is a musician. But take away one musician and the symphony is incomplete. You guessed it. We need each other. You need someone and someone needs you. Isolated islands we’re not.
“To make this thing called life work, we gotta lean and support. And relate and respond. And give and take. And confess and forgive. And release and rely on. Since none of us is a whole, independent, self-sufficient, superb, capable, all-powerful hotshot, let’s quit acting like we are. Life’s lonely enough without our playing that silly role. The game’s over. Let’s link up.”
If it’s going to be, it starts with me.