Yesterday, I was behind a car that had this political statement bumper sticker: "I'll hug your elephant if you kiss my *$#^*. "
I'll let you fill in the blank there which shouldn't be too difficult to figure out. Suffice it to say that this person was not a Republican and was well aware of different words that can be used to describe the symbol of the Democrat Party and the seat portion of the human being.
This bumper sticker is just one example among many of the sharp dividing lines visible on our nation's political landscape. America at its best is a country that is willing to listen to both sides of the debate and make political decisions that will best serve the people of our country and world.
Like politics, the church can too easily fall into labeling, name calling, and closed mindedness when it comes to dealing with issues. Perhaps this is why so much of the Apostle Paul's letters focus on the importance of unity in Jesus Christ in spite of our differences.
A good example of this unity can be seen within the twelve people Jesus chose to be in his inner circle. You would think that Jesus would have picked people who had similar ideas to his, but instead they were often all over the map in terms of their religious viewpoints.
The disciple, Matthew who appears on the church calendar today was a tax collector, a social outcast during the biblical time period. Tax collectors were Jews who worked for the despised Roman Empire to collect taxes for the government and take more than they should for their own pockets.
It would be difficult to imagine this not being an issue with some, if not most of the other twelve disciples, especially with Simon the Zealot (not to be confused with Simon Peter.) If Simon the Zealot was actually connected with the 1st century Zealot movement (similar to our modern day militia groups who are against the government) which he could have very well been since this word is connected to his name, imagine what some of the conversations must have been like between these two guys!
You couldn't have two people at more opposite ends of the political spectrum than Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot.
Even though the disciples often bickered and fought among themselves throughout the gospel accounts, they still displayed a remarkable unity and for the most part, stuck together despite their many differences.
What kept them together was their desire to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
I would imagine that during that first year or two, the disciples were tempted to use similar bumper sticker slogans against each other like the one I saw on the back of a car yesterday. How they were able to overcome their differences is an interesting thought. But I'm sure it had something to do with the one who called them to be his disciples.