A recent blog post by a friend of mine has been burning up the internet with comment upon comment upon comment. It’s nothing new to get lots of comments on a blog post, but I am reminded by many of these comments (having morphed into a debate) that sometimes, Christians are adept at tearing one another down. This is never good, but it is especially bad when done in full view of the public, where unbelievers can use such vitriolic debate as yet another way to deface the Christian faith.
I have, on occasion, participated in that tearing down, and I have had to repent of it. It doesn’t build the kingdom of God when God’s people speak ill of one another.
The sad thing – and it is, after all, only human – is that such behaviour usually occurs over relatively minor points of Christian faith or doctrine. The trouble is, in the heat of the moment, for sincere believers who are pitted against one another on a matter of interpretation, something relatively minor often takes on unbelievably major proportions.
There are differences in the way Christ-followers think, believe and act. There always have been. A faith tradition where there is no room for debate is more commonly called a cult. In a cult, you can’t call into question any of the ‘official teaching’. In a Christian church, you can, because an inquisitive mind is a gift from God.
That doesn’t mean that the church can’t take a stand and say that something is wrong. There are, after all, no small number of absolutes on which a difference of opinion would separate the proverbial sheep from the goats. But there are many other matters which are debatable, and about which Bible-believing followers of Jesus can agree to disagree. The challenge, it seems to me, is getting to the point of agreement to disagree without some sort of public blood-letting on both sides.
If we take Scripture seriously, then we need to take all of Scripture seriously. And while all Scripture is equally inspired, it is not all equally applicable. This is why, in any sort of debate on matters of faith, believers do well to heed Jesus’ great commandment first: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22.37-40, NLT).
It’s all too easy, in the heat of the moment, to put the debate of minutiae ahead of loving others. But even if you lose the debate, you may win the heart of an observer just by the way you conduct yourself…in love.
P.S.: If you’re interested in checking out my friend’s blog post, click here.