By Pastor Bob Myers
One of the greatest satisfactions in our family is the love our children have for one another.
Most parents who have the great privilege of having multiple children marvel and delight in how different their children are from each other. Even though children share the same basic DNA and the same family environment, children are lessons in contrast and diversity.
Parents know love for their children that nothing can undo. It’s true for God too. You can’t possibly do anything to make God stop loving you. You can’t do anything to make Him love you less. If you are in the family, His love holds you fast and His grip will never let you go. John 10:28 "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."
There is one thing above all others that one of our children could do to hurt us the most. One thing that would tower over every hurtful action I can conceive. Can you guess what that would be? It would be to slander their siblings, to spread division in the family. That’s the one thing a child of mine could do that would give us no other alternative but to disinvite them to family gatherings.
Spreading division and disunity receives a uniquely harsh consequence in the Bible.
"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him." Titus 3:10
"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites…" Romans 16: 17-18
We all can see the polarization and tribalism in our culture. Satan wants to bring that disunity into the church. The internet and social media have spawned so-called “discernment” ministries and self-appointed watchdogs who specialize in fault-finding. This “discernment ministry” has spread a kind of division and paranoia among God’s children. It has created a kind of hyper-vigilance that shoots first and asks questions never. The self-appointed watch dogs would say they are interested in doctrinal purity. But we’ve never had more of them. And they are not producing purity. They are producing lovelessness. Jesus taught us to look for the fruit. This is bad fruit.
My plea is simple. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the polarization. Be a conscientious objector when others want to draft you into the discernment wars. Abstain from warring against brothers and sisters.
The fruit from this poison tree is “sowing discord in the family.” Proverbs 6:19 The Father weeps. Jesus is dishonored. The Church’s witness is compromised. The world does not know we are Christ’s disciples because we are not loving one another (John 13:34). Jesus gave the world the right to dismiss the witness of unloving Christians. Jesus predicted that His church would grow, but He prayed for unity (John 17).
I have found that most accusations against other parts of the Body of Christ are weaponized exaggerations. They represent other’s beliefs in a way that they would never find acceptable. They treat their fellow believers the way many politicians treat their opponents. They purposely misrepresent others’ beliefs to gain the upper hand. A new believer in Christ once told me this: “Teaching a new believer the faults of other denominations is like teaching a blind man to be racist.”
If you want to constructively engage a brother or sister who holds to some different beliefs, here are a few Biblical principles:
1) Refuse to exaggerate and refuse to use extreme rhetoric.
“Un-Christian”, “Not the same God”, “False teacher” and the extreme pejorative “Heretic” slanders your brothers and sisters. Learn how to disagree without drawing blood.
2) Represent the beliefs of others the way they would.
Labor to understand other’s beliefs and practices from an insider’s perspective. To not do so is to sin against others by bearing false witness to what they believe. I don’t like it when others do this to me. I must refuse to do this to others. I must refuse to even listen to those who do this to others.
3) Find what the Spirit of God is doing through their movement and champion that.
Look for the good and dwell there (Philippians 4). Make it your ambition to build up others rather than tear others down.
When I have taken the time to truly get to know Christians from other traditions in face to face, heart to heart, conversations I have found that these traditions contain my siblings in Christ who have things to teach me. I’ve learned many worthwhile, Biblically sound, things from Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and many other traditions as well.
We all have some pieces of the theological map that could help us if we are willing to adopt a humble posture that affirms we can learn something from everyone. You don’t have to look far for this either. Covenant Church has people from all of these backgrounds that enrich our church.
Someone asked me, “Are you left-wing or right-wing?” My answer is, “I’m for the whole bird.” God loves the whole bird. The whole church. The whole world.
If there’s one thing I hope that I am known for as a Christ-follower it is love.
Love builds bridges.
I pray that we will be a humble people and a humble church. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to make aware of our own weaknesses and of others’ strengths.
Unity requires love. Unity requires humility. I pray that Covenant will be a unifying force in the larger world of Christianity, but also among the larger body of churches and church traditions and denominations in Doylestown and beyond.
The best way to advance the truth is to be known by what we are for and not by what we are against.
The Father loves it when His children express their love for one another. He wants us “to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” Ephesians 4:2. Then the world will say, “I don’t know about their beliefs, but I can’t deny the beauty in how they treat one another.”