You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour.
"My daddy could totally beat up your daddy!" Exclaims one small boy to another. "Nuh uh! My daddy could totally beat up your daddy!" Shoots back the second boy. The exchange continues back and forth all while outside the doors of the principle office over a fight on the playground for who had the rights to the monkey bars.
Sound familiar? Maybe you yourself said the very exact words as a kid. I mean our dads could do anything, right? They were superheroes. And as funny as this situation looks when played out by two kindergarden kids flexing their muscles vicariously through their father's, it becomes a much sadder and, truthfully, destructive thing when we do it as adults.
Be it a debate about Apple vs Windows, my favourite hockey team is better then yours, to Vaccinates or not to Vaccinate, Calvinism vs Arminianism, Atheism vs a belief in God or a God, and the list goes on.
Sometimes it is blatant and sometimes it is subtle--we see it all the time. We draw battle lines where groups of people who are like minded gather in exclusive clusters only to wage war against those they disagree with. We flex our muscles vicariously through the worldview we hold, as though the battle has already been one. Not only does the topic of disagreement become a hot button, but the line of decency and human dignity becomes blurred, if not lost all together, in some cases, and the ability for conversation is all but lost.
The moment we forget that all people are born with human dignity, because they are image bearers of God, we have lost before we have even started (James 3:9). The sad reality is, it seems that no one is immune to this reality. Even in a movement of people that should be marked by grace and unity, above our differences, we see it much to often. Words of death being spewed as we 'eat our own'. This should truly bring us concern towards this divisive, hateful and destructive attitude & posture.
You know what really grinds my gears???
DISAGREEMENT ISN'T BAD
Now don't get me wrong. I am not talking about us all sitting around in a circle, holding hands and singing kumbaya (though if that is what you enjoy doing, all the power to you). It seems that much to often we find the pull to either extreme--standing against everything to make our point and offend everyone or standing for nothing in fear of offending anyone.
In the end, neither side seems to accomplishes the unity, grace and change they seek to accomplish. We create tribes inside our own movements, building bigger and bigger walls, throwing hand grenades over to each other, when we should be instead tearing down walls, or at least building doors in hopes to bring healing, understanding and conversations to a situation that seems has none (or better: not enough).
So, often, the wars that ensue start with simple misunderstandings that are blown out of proportion or we create caricatures of beliefs and positions that the other side don't even hold. Some topics, differences and debates are much more serious then others and some can even be a matter of life or death. The degree of the passion involved the conversation only heightens the tension and chance of attack.
So often, the real issue isn't disagreement, but how we choose to talk to each other and about each other. It is the unwillingness for real conversation and worse, the loss of human dignity and tearing each other down.
This all becomes divisive where it doesn't need to be. All to often we quickly jump to where we disagree instead of seeing our common ground and having that as a starting point, wrestling together through the disagreements we have.
"It’s embarrassing to belong to a faith that attracts a group of people who always have to be right, and when something pushes them just a bit, they want to shut it down or keep people away." // Craig Gross
UNITY & UNIFORMITY
Unity and uniformity are not the same thing. Having a diversity of people making the mosaic of humanity can a beautiful thing with many mutual benefits, even in our differences. Debating hot topics and challenging each other to think deeper about why we hold what we do, isn't a bad thing. We should all have deep convictions and have confidence in those convictions. But, it is when we create ultimatums and all or nothing standpoints that we become a resounding gong and loss our voice in this ongoing conversation.
What would happen if we were to see our commonality and the things that unite us together, even if only to recognize that we are all human and image bearers of God and wrestle with our diversity and the challenges those bring inside that framework. For those who share my own context: what would happen if the Church saw itself first and foremost as the body of Christ unified in one Spirit, one Baptism and one Christ? (Eph 4:4-6; cf. 1 Cor 3:4) What kind of world could we build with unity, grace and love at the forefront? Putting our rights and needing to be right aside for the greater good and purpose of our brothers and sisters, and have Christ as our example of this (Phil 2)?
It's really nice to get outside your own theological tradition and worship together with other brothers and sisters who like you, love God and want to worship Him according to our best understanding of what the Scriptures teach. The world sometimes brings up the fact that there are thousands of denominations as if it means we're not unified. Well, being part of a different denomination does not mean you cannot worship together, love one another and serve together. It just means (in most cases) you understand the Scriptures differently on issues that are important, but non-essential. We are one in Christ and we can learn from one another (as I did today).
DIFFERENCES DON'T NEED TO MEAN DISUNITY
Our differences even inside our own camps and traditions don't need to be a bad thing and in many ways allow us to meet the needs of a variety of people. Furthermore, we should have deep convictions that mutually challenge each other to think deep and hard about why we believe what we believe and what difference it makes. Our differences don't need to mean disunity, but let us look at our commonality for our unity, especially on the essentials and work out the rest on the way home.
Now let me be clear: Lines do exist, we will disagree on many things and there are some arguments that do really matter and should be fought for. To try an ignore that is putting our head in the sand. Arguments in themselves don't need to be bad. But it could be said that much of what becomes strife and division don't need to become that if come at it in the right manor and state of mind and in many cases could what we see as division simply be personal convictions and differing expressions of complex beings interacting with an infinitely complex and divine being.
When our voice becomes a position of attack, when we have gotten to the point that 'everyone else' is wrong and you are always right and division is always coming left and right, this should bring you deep concern and should ask the question: maybe it is me. Let us make sure we know what is what and what we are truly communicating with our actions and words.
If you ever find yourself involved in a Christian group that leads you to separate yourself from the rest of the Body of Christ, know that you are on a path of deception. Deception by definition means that you do not know it, so watch for the warning sign
So, what would happen if we put our arms down and actually started to talk?
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