“He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.” (Matthew 25:333 NLT)
I’ve been in numerous churches in my lifetime, but never one where men and women did what they once did in one near Vance, South Carolina.
My maternal grandparents attended a small United Methodist church nestled on country Highway 210–a highway once heavily traveled before interstates came along. When I spent time with them during the summer, I attended that little church. Since this was the second church on the pastor’s charge, we had church first and Sunday school next.
The first time I walked in, I noticed something differed from any other church I’d ever attended: the men sat on the left and the women sat on the right. Of course, young male children who were still too small to sit by themselves sat on the side with their moms and grandmothers, but all other males sat on the left. I thought the practice curious, but never wondered why. I merely took my place on the right side with my grandmother. After all, she gave me Dentyne chewing gum–something my grandfather didn’t carry.
One day I googled, “Why did men and women once sit on separate sides of the church?” Various answers popped up. Some related to tradition. Others related to Bible verses that adherents to the tradition felt supported the practice.
One day–I don’t know why–the men and women at Gerizim United Methodist Church quit separating in that little church. And I’ve not seen this done anywhere since.
Traditions aren’t the only thing that have separated people throughout time. Prejudice, social class, race, nationality, and many other things have. Even Jesus spoke of a separation. But this one will be final and the most pressing of any separations anyone has endured. Those on His left will be eternally separated from Him. Those on the right, He’ll invite into His eternal Kingdom.
God doesn’t will this great separation. Peter tells us He doesn’t want any to perish (See 1 Peter 3:9). But God is holy and those who choose to remain in their sins rather than receive forgiveness and His salvation must be separated from Him.
Nor does God want people to be separated in life. God’s love contains the power to remove things that separate us from each other. When I see others as God does, prejudice won’t barricade me from them. History’s pages are filled with the evils separations have brought. God wants us to live in peace with each other and to love our neighbors as we do ourselves.
God allows us to choose separation from Him and others–even the choice that determines our eternal destiny. Choice is what makes us human. But our choices have consequences.
Choose to love God and others so your life–now and in eternity–will be happy and peaceful.