We don’t need them.

They don’t understand us.

They aren’t like us.

We will never get along.

Don’t waste your time with them.

They will never change.

They are all like that.

Have you heard any of these phrases? I have heard all of them, and more, living here in Southwest Michigan.

It never ceases to amaze me how we can celebrate the beauty of our incredible communities in this region while ignoring the divide that still exists. When communities live so close geographically, but are so disconnected relationally, it is not good for anyone.

When we are divided, we miss out on the beauty, and blessing, of the rich diversity of culture and community available to us. In an era of division, what if Southwest Michigan became a community that led our nation toward hope and healing?

If our region came together in a new season of unity, then our state, and our nation, will take notice. We are better together.

I have lived in this region since 2007. I still recall the first time I saw the demographics of our area. They showed the depth of division, both economically and racially.

I vividly remember the almost visceral reaction I had my first time driving through Southwest Michigan and seeing the stark contrasts between communities.

I also can’t shake recent events in the news that illustrated how vast the chasm really is with educational equity in our community. We are better together.

Like anyone else, I am often tempted to ignore obvious issues. It is always easier to look the other way and live in ignorance, but avoidance and disconnection are not the answer. Life is not meant to be lived alone.

We are all created in the image of God and have divine fingerprints on our lives that include an innate need for community. The Trinity itself points to our God who dwells in community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

In the beginning of creation, God created us, male and female, and said it is not good for us to be alone. The next move God makes is creating marriage as a gift for humanity.

Jumping ahead, we later learn that marriage is also the best example of Jesus and his bride, the church.

What does all of this mean for our lives? It means that we need each other, and we will experience the best God has created for us when we come together in unity.

Jesus has bridged the gap between us and God, and created a relational bridge through the Holy Spirit that unifies us. We are better together.

Southwest Michigan is a great place with great people and great potential. I believe it is time for us to lean into God, into each other, and to live into that potential.

What if the faith community began calling for unity and actually living it out as “salt and light”?

I believe it needs to begin with us owning that we have often lived personal and corporate lives as divided as anyone else. Public confession of our sins and listening to the lament of others will open doors for God to begin the work of renewal.

Where can you start? Read Ephesians 2 and 2 Corinthians 5. Take notes and answer these three questions:

• What is God saying to me through his word?

• What am I going to do about it?

• How can my church family help me do this?

If you follow through with this step, I believe God will begin to touch your heart to be a part of his movement to renew and revive our region – one life and one heart at a time.

It is time for us to live lives that show the world that we are better together.

Today’s Insights was written by the Rev. Brian Bennett, lead pastor of Overflow Church in Benton Harbor. Insights is written by area clergy to give different viewpoints on a variety of topics. It is published each Saturday in cooperation with the Berrien County Association of Churches. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of member churches.