Tribes were important to Israel. Before Christ, the Jews were divided into a dozen tribes based on their physical lineage. Even Jesus was identified with a tribe. It was the nature of Jewish society. But when Jesus established his church, tribes became irrelevant. Even nationality was no longer important. The kingdom was open to all nations and all people (Isaiah 2:2-4). The fledgling church had people from many tribes, including Judah, Levi, Benjamin, and more. Even non-Jews were in the family. Residents of Corinth and Rome were there, along with the Judaean Jews.
But today, almost no one thinks about our tribes, or do they?
Because present-day Christians come from every corner of the world, we must guard against geographic tribalism because there are no tribes in Christ. Christians in third-world countries are every bit as much of a Christian as those in America. Differences in background and culture create an exciting environment of brotherly love. We must never use a man’s homeland against him.
Racial bias and prejudice are found in every land. It most often centers around skin color but can be much more subtle. The Middle East struggles with deeply engrained hatred toward people who look much like one another but who are considered a different race or people. In our nation, overt racism manifested itself in 19th-century slavery and the subsequent “Jim Crowe” laws that persisted into the 21st century. A white man and a black man stand equal before the Lord. Early conflicts between Jew and Gentile marked the earliest days of the church. Race is unimportant in Christ (Acts 15).
External, worldly issues must never divide the church. Yet, we see it happen in many places. National political turmoil has found its way into the church with devastating consequences. Dare I say there are some with greater fealty to a politician than to Jesus? It sure seems that way. If a person’s political choices (party, candidate, etc.) cause you to question their faith, perhaps you have fallen victim to this particularly nasty form of tribalism.
During his lifetime, I find no mention of Jesus ever challenging the Romans. He did not criticize Augustus or Tiberius, and his apostles did not encourage uprisings against Caligula, Claudius, Nero, or Vespasian. This silence despite the extreme persecutions foisted upon the Christians. Actually, silence is not precise. Jesus did tell his disciples to pay their taxes (Matthew 22:21). Paul told the Roman Christians to obey the government (Romans 13:1-7), and he reminded Titus to be submissive to rulers (Titus 3:1).
These kinds of tribalism, and there are more, are tools of Satan. We must not fall into the trap of division because that will hurt the church and damager her influence. Christians view life through the lens of their experiences. Since we are all different, we have different views. That’s good. But when the glasses of our preferred worldview cause us to stumble, we must find new glasses.
Remember, there are no tribes in Christ.