Maybe I should have a sign around my neck:
Don’t poke the (mama) bear.
I love peace. I hate drama. I don’t like to stir the pot. But we are living in perilous times. Sometimes silence is a luxury we can’t afford.
While it takes a lot for me to stick my nose into controversial topics, there is one area that will get me to speak up quicker than any other…
When one person’s OPINION judges the sincerity of another’s faith.
Yeah, that one gets me going. It gets me going because it divides us. It is inevitable that diverse people, with diverse personalities and experiences will disagree—even in the Church. But when someone assumes a position of moral superiority and feels justified in judging the motives of anyone who disagrees, that is a bridge too far. Although they may have valid reasons for their own position, no one cares once they start preaching DOWN to anyone with a different perspective. When there is no acknowledgement that those who hold differing opinions may also have valid reasons, it is never persuasive …
It is divisive.
There is an awful lot of that going around these days. And THAT is the thing that really pokes this mama bear—right in the heart. Things are hard enough without the Church taking pot shots at each other—even when it is often done more out of passion and ignorance than actual malice.
There are many, many issues facing us that most of us have never grappled with before. Truly, “we have not been this way before.” We will not all agree on the solutions or even the source of the problem. Because the stakes are high, we can’t allow ourselves to be cowed into silence, but learning how to express our convictions while still valuing the right of another to disagree, is vitally important.
I am still very much sorting all of this out for myself. What does it mean to be bold and unafraid, while still being loving and respectful? I can’t say that I know. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. But, for the record, I’m pretty dang sure telling someone they are …
-not following Jesus
-sinning against Him
-lacking love and compassion
-filled with fear, or pride, or insert the insult de jour
…simply because they disagree with YOU, is not the way to go about it.
Could those things possibly be true? Sure. “But who are you to judge the servant of another?” It is not my job to determine the authenticity of someone’s faith, nor the moral validity of their convictions. Even Jesus said the wheat would grow with the tares and HE would sort it out at the end of the age.
I’m not saying anything goes. There are absolute truths for those claiming to be followers of Jesus. I think Augustine said it best:
“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”
However, the “essentials” Augustine spoke of would NOT include the vast majority of our political/social opinions. Instead, what he referred to as essentials were the core tenets of Christian orthodoxy through the ages. (Think the Apostle’s Creed.)
Religion and politics are strange bedfellows. I have seen the two conflated in this season (by those on both sides of the aisle and every place in between) in ways I never have before. It is an area where I need to continually check my own heart. Our faith absolutely SHOULD influence and inform our politics. I even believe our faith should influence activism in areas where core tenets of our faith are challenged by unrighteous laws. I realize not everyone agrees with that, and I’m okay with that.
But I’m NOT okay with telling someone their faith is deficient if they don’t agree with me.
I get the struggle. Right now, it seems like up is down, and down is up. Tension is high. There has been immense suffering and loss. We want someone, anyone, to blame. But since we’ve been lied to repeatedly by those we are supposed to be able to trust—the government, media, the scientific community, just to name a few—many of us have differing ideas about what is really going on. For anyone to hold dogmatic and inflexible opinions and claim full clarity on truth in such a complex environment would seem to be incredibly naive, not to mention intellectually dishonest. Things are not black and white in the world right now. Nor is everything clear from a spiritual perspective—we see only in part. As a result, we must remain teachable. That requires ongoing diligence and humility. It requires less dogmatism in the way we “speak up.” It requires brutal honesty about the source of so many of our deeply held beliefs—are they actually from God Himself or merely from our worldview?
It’s not easy. I fail often. But one thing I do know is this: Jesus still has only ONE Church. His desire is still that we—His Church, His Bride—would be one, as He and the Father are one. That doesn’t mean we will ever think or act the same, but it does mean we ALL need to be engaged in ongoing communion and active submission to Him. It means taking our assigned role in the Body—without dismissing or demeaning the role of another.
Because, ultimately, THAT is what is loving Him looks like.
God is love, and His highest command to us, is love. Even when it’s tough and messy and not-so-clear-cut. Always. Forever. In ALL things …