There are days when the endless bickering within Christianity can feel like the Longest. Roadtrip. Ever.
And everything in me wants to whine, “Are we there yet?”
But in truth, we’re not there yet because we’re sinners saved by grace, and sometimes our sin manages to yell a little louder than grace – but we’re all working on it (tho really, it is Him at work in us), and grace will always have the final word. And sometimes we just need to pull over and regain some perspective.
We bicker about so many things on this journey. Little things that don’t really matter. Big things that actually really do. There are things worth fighting about – and we’re always going to have varying opinions on what those things are – but there’s a way to fight about things and a way not to. We need to learn a better way to fight, which starts with understanding that there is a difference between unity and uniformity, between division and disagreement, and that there is room in “the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory” for all of us.
We were all invited. Regardless of what we think about a charity’s hiring policies. Regardless of what we believe about the role of women in the church. Regardless of how we think people should be baptized, or take communion. Regardless of what we think about this famous preacher or that one. Regardless of what we think about anything.
So let’s pull over for a minute, and regain some perspective. If we are going to have any hope of healing the hurt we have caused one another, the first thing we need to do is stop causing more pain. And the way we do that is simple:
No matter what the issue is, you are fighting with people – so love like it.
It is so easy to slam someone’s ideas harshly when you are not looking them in the eye. But put yourself across the table from an actual person whose ideas differ sharply from yours, and everything changes. At least, it should.
That person who thinks you’re as dumb as you think they are? Jesus loves them.
Are you going to prove it to them by speaking kindly, by being civil, and by disagreeing respectfully? Or are you going to verbally attack them, instead of engaging them in conversation about their ideas?
Do you know that you can argue passionately for your viewpoint and still agree to disagree at the end of your argument when the ground rule is always: “I will love you anyway”? Because “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”
If we remember that our directions are “love God and love people“ – the issues, important as they are, will take their rightful places instead of trumping our ability to love each other.
If we truly love each other, we will starting thinking before we speak. We will make sure we are informed before we spout off about things worth spouting off about. We will be considerate and kind, patient with others when they aren’t as considerate or kind to us as we wish them to be. We will be humble. Open to being wrong (and admitting it) if someone can present us with facts we didn’t have when we formed our opinion.
We will plant our feet firmly and hold our ground on issues that matter – like equality and justice and freedom – but we will do in a way that represents Jesus. Oh, He is fierce sometimes. I doubt the money-changers were happy that one day. But oh, how He loved them.
We can be fierce about things when people know we love them. We can disagree without causing division. And we can choose to part ways when we need to without it having to be a big awful thing.
Unity doesn’t mean we all have to agree about everything all the time. It means we are choosing to be defined by Love. And as we choose it, again and again and again, the whisper of grace will shout louder than our sin… until one day, we will round a corner on this road to see Malachi’s sun of righteousness rising, with healing radiating from its wings.
And as that new Day dawns, we will ask in wonder, “Are we there yet?”
And His answer will be a resounding: “Yes!”