Why Can’t We Be Friends?

As a teenager in the 1970’s, I remember the Mid-East peace process being a big deal in the news. Coming on the heels of the Vietnam War, people were beyond tired of the killing; weary of losing loved ones to what at times seemed like endless and senseless conflict.

In 1971, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony) was recorded for a Coca-Cola commercial. This instantly popular song was re-recorded without the Coke reference by two other bands–both  copies of which became hits. The ideal struck a chord in hearts all over the world.

Album Cover Copyright United Artists

In 1975 the American Funk band War released their hit album titled, Why Can’t We Be Friends?–the title track being one of their biggest hit singles. The point was pretty simple: why can’t we put aside our greed and prejudice and all just get along as the human race?

Other similar songs have been recorded and released in subsequent years—each with the same general message of unity for humanity.

I would guess that if asked, 99 out of 100 people would say they want world peace; that they cherish close relationships; that they would prefer to avoid conflict and all of its associated pain. If asked.

Reality, however, differs significantly from our wishful thinking. In 2010, several of the original members of War sued Pepsico for $10 million for using “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” in a commercial without permission. Members of the British band Oasis were sued for using some of the music and lyrics from “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” without permission. And, unfortunately, after more than 35 years of persistent effort, hatred and killing still abound in the Middle East.

It’s obvious that the world can’t get this right. Interpersonal harmony and world peace continue to be wonderful, but elusive notions.

Diagram by Stevertigo – CC BY-SA 3.0

When Jesus walked this earth, He set a high ideal for human relationships. Today, many of His followers are sharply divided. No clear count is available, but scholars contend that there are between 20,000-43,000 Christian denominations across the globe. It’s not extreme to say that many of them can’t stand each other.

I don’t like it, but I can understand the conflict between those who don’t know Christ. I cannot, however, accept this degree of division within the Church as I find it to be terribly dishonoring to God.

Jesus once said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35 (ESV).

It’s no wonder that in many parts of our world the Church has little to no influence on the culture. By our own Leader’s words, our inability to love one another shows our faith to be a sham. Blunt, I know, but painfully true. At least the world thinks so.

Why can’t we be friends? I’ve blogged about Christian unity before, but in this upcoming series I’d like to spotlight some of the root causes of our conflict. Feel free to weigh in if you have any thoughts!