United We Stand

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Living Stones Series: First Published in All Around Old Bridge Publication – October 2017

By Pastor Lloyd Pulley

The great Greek storyteller, Aesop, tells this tale:

A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many times he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to warn another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in the separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

The moral of “The Four Oxen and the Lion?” United we stand, divided we fall.

Brilliant politicians like Patrick Henry relied heavily on the phrase “united we stand, divided we fall,” as have artists like Pink Floyd, authors like J.K. Rowling, and filmmakers like the creators of Captain America: Civil War. The phrase is also the motto of state legislatures. Notably, the state of Missouri’s flag displays two grizzly bears around a shield that reads, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

The adage holds true both in principle and in practice, and yet, some Americans seem to have fallen away from its fundamental truth. Currently, some in our nation are broken up into distinct groups with zealous individuals and media outlets overemphasizing our differences rather than our unity as Americans.

Nevertheless, we often return to the truth of “united we stand, divided we fall” when tragedy strikes. After the nightmare of 9/11, our nation rallied around our flag and what it meant to be an American, and responded to our enemies with one voice.

As we experienced in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Americans from all over the country unified to bring much-needed relief to this area. In fact, our church, Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, working through a branch of Calvary Relief, was able to unleash a volunteer force from throughout the nation to bring the equivalent of millions of dollars of relief to hard-hit NJ neighborhoods.

And now, after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma ravished regions of Texas and Florida, once again Americans are uniting to meet the needs of fellow Americans. Here at home, Calvary Old Bridge is sending teams and volunteers, as well as supplies and resources, to help Americans rebuild through Calvary Relief.

This is the bedrock of what it means to be an American – rallying to meet the needs of others. Americans of every creed, color, and socio-economic status are unifying and serving side-by-side when it matters most. This great American spirit brings to mind a simple injunction of Jesus, who quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31).

What does it mean then, to love our neighbors as ourselves?

Do you feed yourself every day? Make sure you have clothes, drinking water, a place to sleep, etc.? As we meet those needs for ourselves, we often think of others in desperate need, especially during times of crisis.

Recently, this united American spirit was clearly evident in Texas, as residents helped one another in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Within three weeks of the storm, 95% of Texans’ homes had been mucked out! Amazingly much of this work has been done by people of faith who firmly believe in loving their neighbors as themselves.

In a USA Today piece entitled, “Faith groups provide the bulk of disaster recovery, in coordination with FEMA,” Paul Singer writes, “In a disaster, churches don’t just hold bake sales to raise money or collect clothes to send to victims; faith-based organizations are integral partners in state and federal disaster relief efforts. They have specific roles and a sophisticated communication and coordination network to make sure their efforts don’t overlap or get in each others’ way.”

Even government organizations, and those affiliated with government, acknowledge the role of faith-based organizations in disaster relief. One such group, Partners for the Common Good, notes, “nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community organizations, play a vital role in both preparing for disaster, and in ensuring an inclusive and participatory community-wide recovery from a disaster… these organizations directly supplement and fill gaps where government authority and resources cannot be applied.”

Academia acknowledges this phenomenon as well. One such study notes that about half of all shelters in the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina were operated by faith-based groups. In other words, Americans unified in loving their neighbors as themselves have a real, quantifiable impact on fellow Americans in need.

Look how Americans rise up and unite in times of crisis, and you will see what it fundamentally means to BE American.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves fundamentally draws us together, and in that, we truly stand united.

Aaron Salvato