I was cringing…just cringing and praying…”Lord, please make it stop. Quiet his mouth. Allow a distraction. Something. Just make it stop.” But it continued…and I was stuck. No, I am not talking about some sort of physical torture…I’m talking about being in a situation where I was hearing someone say some things that weren’t true. Actually, it’s more than that…he was carrying on in a way that indicated that I (and everyone else in the room) would agree with him when I simply do not. In fact, I was in such disagreement that my soul was grieving at his words because they seemed contrary to our common faith (Christianity.) And there were so many people around! I couldn’t call him out on it without causing a scene which would ultimately destroy our already-fragile relationship. So, there I found myself in a situation where I had to be false and pretend to be in agreement, absent by repeatedly removing myself from the situation, or (seemingly) combative which isn’t where my heart is for this person. Spoiler: I ended up doing all three in some form that evening and I still don’t think that he ever got the point because my instinct is to use finesse and nuance while this person generally takes more of a “sledge-hammer” approach. So, in my current state of feeling like I lost an opportunity but also still not knowing what I would have done differently, I write these words:
Dear Christian, I love you deeply…and while I want to add the word “but” to that statement, I won’t…because those four words are a complete statement.
Dear Christian, I may disagree with your words but that is not because I see us as being in opposition to each other. As a matter of fact, it is because I believe we are united in our beliefs that I disagree with your words. At your core, I think even YOU disagree with your words…you just don’t yet see the contradictions you are presenting.
Dear Christian, I am all for having a right to your opinions. (God knows that I sure have a ton of them) But when you make generalized statements that only allow two options (agreeing with you or disagreeing with you) it creates a situation where I am forced to be false, absent, or combative. False isn’t an option for me because I have lived in that prison before…I will not go back there. So, when I am left with only absence or combativeness, which would you have me choose and not fault me for? Do you mean to draw a line in the sand where God has not?
Dear Christian, If we want to honor God, we will adopt his characteristics not sully his name with our worst ones. Our Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He does not divide…he unites. He does not create unnecessary conflict…he ushers in peace and safety. He does not harm his own…he protects. Looking back at your own words, would you say that their message lines up with the characteristics of the Good Shepherd?
Dear Christian, when you are careless with your words, it makes you seem small which reflects poorly on the one after whom you are named. Do you mean to make the gospel seem too small and insignificant to be of any value? I don’t think you do…but when we become unloving on small points…the gift of the gospel begins to look like no gift at all.
Dear Christian, Instead of only pointing out our differences, wouldn’t it be more constructive to determine what we have in common? In my view, our commonalities are rooted in something (someone) so enormous that he shadows our differences to the point that they become microscopic.
I could go on and on with this topic…In fact, I think most people could. I was raised by a pastor/seminary professor and when I would reveal my denomination to people, I would always get an ear-full about how someone of my denomination had injured them. (I won’t lie…I know that I have been guilty of this in the past myself.) It bothered me for a long time until I looked at the word denomination (the root literally means “to divide.”) That was when I started referring to it as a flavor instead. (Nobody has ever shared with me how chocolate or vanilla had injured them and caused them to move away from God.) Now, I don’t claim a denomination or even a flavor at all. I believe in the Trinity and the Bible and the fruit of the Spirit…and if anyone wants to know more about me, I will make it difficult for them to sum me up in one word like Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc. because I would rather enter into conversation about it than quickly categorize or be categorized.
So, how are you doing with this? Are you drawing hard lines in the sand where God has not? If you are (and think that it is good) would you please consider evaluating those lines by asking yourself if you tend to draw them in such a way that you get to be with the “in-crowd?” What does that tell you about your lines and your motives? Or maybe you tend to find yourself excluded from the “in-crowd.” Are you holding the exclusions and pain that you have experienced against God? Was it God who drew those lines or possibly well-intending-but-poorly-executing-Christians?
Again, my prayer this morning is that we would learn to love each other well…that we would stop seeking out division and differences…that we would represent our Lord well and bring healing instead of further injuring others. Much love friends,