Common Ground, by Joe Battaglia
SEPTEMBER 12, 2020
On the back of every coin are the Latin words e pluribus unum.
I suspect that most Americans know the phrase means “one from many.” The heterogeneous makeup of our population has long represented our nation’s genius in that we are one nation formed from an amazingly diverse group of people. Simply, the genius of our nation is that we are all different yet one; not that we are all the same and one. America was established upon the realization that our differences would define our strength as a nation, and contribute to us being more fully one.
This is best exemplified in the stirring lines of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Did you ever wonder where the idea behind “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” came from? Its roots were in the First Great Awakening in the mid-1700s that stirred people’s hearts with the concept of a biblical freedom of self-determination as a child of God, not as a ward of the state with its imposed caste systems.
The Great Experiment in establishing a new nation was based upon the understanding that since “all men are created equal” and in God’s image, people can coexist if they remain glued to that fact. Our national motto is an understanding of the greatness of plurality and the necessity of having people who are different from each other speak into each other’s lives. We can only act upon this if indeed we believe that God made us in his image, and we are therefore equal. Every one of us.
Part of the issue we face today is the lack of appreciation of our differences. It’s easy to hide within so-called communities of sameness online, for example. But the reality is that we all cannot believe the same way or even the same things. Sameness and similarity do not enhance people’s ability to come together.
Actually, we get along best when we interact and rely on each other for our sustenance. I am much more likely to get to know you, appreciate you, and even befriend you when I’m sweating alongside you for a common goal. I may even learn from you and appreciate things I would never be confronted with unless I heard your voice, listened to what you said, and sensed the hope in your soul, which sounds a lot like my heart and soul. There is no adequate substitute for looking into your eyes to see the eternity in your soul and to hear the heartbeat of your dream.
You can’t get that opportunity in an online “community” or in believing like everyone else.
Being a Christ-follower is all about finding that common ground with everyone. Especially those who are different than us. Jesus did that exceptionally well. The Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John is a good case in point. The powerful thing about this story is that Jesus went out of his way to find someone whom society said he should avoid or disregard. The principle here is that when we go out of our way to be with people UNLIKE us, they will go out of their way to tell people ABOUT us!
The most famous passage in all of Scripture may be John 3:16, which speaks of God’s love for man by sending his Son to die for us. The next verse says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (3:17 NIV). We see that exhibited plainly in his dealings with the woman at the well. He chose to intersect with her to show her God’s love and reorient her focus, which was clouded by the religious thinking she was accustomed to.
So, my role is to help all people find that common ground between themselves and God. People who may be very different from me politically, racially, or generationally are really much the same as me in so many other ways. It just takes some time to look for the commonality between us. That’s called communication. And when communication happens, our role as defined in 2 Corinthians 5:18–20 will jump out at us: we are to reestablish friendship between others and God and act as his ambassadors. That requires us to find common ground.