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Tribalism has become so unhealthy in our modern age that we are now making up “tribes” to belong to because we are so confused about who we are as a people. But that isn’t anything new. Tribalism has been unhealthy since we started choosing sides and reducing our identity to either our genetic roots or family ties. All of history is filled with atrocities done in the name of either protecting our tribe or attacking another tribe!

But there are some real treasures in our different communities, and we humans were made for being in communion, so it’s a mistake to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

So, how do we learn to discern (quickly becoming one of my favorite sayings) between a healthy joy in our family ties and the unhealthy tribalism that degenerates into racism, insecure arrogance, or even violence? It all begins with seeing our distinctiveness as both a gift AND an invitation to share!

Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Mark 9:33-41:

At that time, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.”

The disciples of the Lord come across a man casting out demons in the name of the Lord and they stopped him because he wasn’t part of their group! When they told the Lord, He corrected them with the wisdom that said anyone doing good in the name of the Lord can’t then turn around and speak evil of the Lord. In other words, there are the beginnings of communion here. Don’t snuff that out! It’s the whole point of the Lord’s ministry to build, grow, and foster communion.

Now, before you go too far on the other side of this wisdom and suggest the Lord is teaching that anything goes and as long as any group is claiming to follow the Lord they are OK; nothing could be further from the truth taught here. No, the Lord isn’t suggesting that this beginning of communion is the end of the journey, but it is a beginning. It’s like suggesting that a kindergartener is the same as a wise teacher. Yes, both are persons, but there is still a development that has to occur for there to be any chance these two persons can communicate well. We should never confuse the launching pad for the finish line!

Our current societal chaos has seen the sick side of tribalism, but we can’t make the mistake of dismissing the close ties that bind us. We just have to be humble enough and gracious enough to watch our attitudes carefully and constantly ask God to keep us able to discern when things are getting sick. Then we have to be humble enough to repent!

Today, where are those places in your life that are enemies of communion and dialogue? Where are the illnesses in your “tribe?” What fears of the “stranger” lurk in your heart that keep you from seeing all people created in God’s image and meant to be in communion with you? To be sure, we always need discernment, but we can never allow the beauty of God’s original intention for us all to escape or be lost to our fears, our prejudices, or our ignorance. We were made to be in communion like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is in communion Being Orthodox on Purpose means everybody belongs!

P.S. O Lord of Mercy and Compassion, You have made us all in Your image, and spread all over the world the message of Your Kingdom that is meant to create one human family in peace and love. And yet, we still struggle with the prideful notions that our “tribe” is better. We are still stepping on each other to be considered #1. But You, Lord, are the only #1 there is, and You, in Your love for us, offer to all of us the invitation to stand next to You and share in Your life and joy. Grant us forgiveness for neglecting You and help us to set aside our unearned pride for Your loving salvation. Amen

A Special Message from Fr. Barnabas: Bringing us together SO THAT we begin to know ourselves is one of the primary reasons for our common life in the Church. We are meant to know ourselves BY our living together in communion. That’s why we at Faith Encouraged Ministries are committed to working together WITH you to encourage us all to live our faith on a daily basis. And that’s why we ask for your help at this time of year. Would you consider an end-of-the-year gift to Faith Encouraged Ministries? You can give online by clicking the image below!

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