The American political scene is leading the way for church dynamics.
Gone are the days when parties and factions and individuals would share differing views, debate with one another, find common ground, and work together toward the common good. It’s not about that any more. We now live in a viciously competitive gladiator arena.
Yes, people have always vied for their interests and desires, and railed against things they dislike. But it’s no longer enough to disagree. It’s not even sufficient to prevail. Today, the game is all about crushing one’s opponent. Every plan, every strategy, every comment, every social media post seems designed to discredit, humiliate, vilify and exterminate the other side.
And the game is not limited to the players within Washington’s beltway. It’s become the national sport. Everyone plays.
Many in the church have caught the fever. Yes, God’s people have always differed with one another about many things. But, now it’s not sufficient to disagree. Many seem “led” to banish those with whom they disagree, to silence them, to marginalize them, to hurt them.
It’s not enough to disagree. It seems we need to vanquish. Christian bookstores ban certain Christian authors’ books–all of them, even their books that contain no controversial matter. Princeton Theological Seminary rescinds its recognition of Rev. Tim Keller, pastor of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, because some alumni disagree with some of his views. And across the country, church leaders and members are wickedly demonized for supporting–or not supporting–certain political figures.
It’s not enough to engage in respectful debate about differences. Those with whom we disagree must be vanquished! Fire the pastor! Tell opposing members to leave and find another church! Fry them on Facebook!
Actually, this isn’t new. Jesus encountered similar sentiments during his ministry. For the Pharisees and religious leaders, it wasn’t enough to disagree with Jesus. They sought to vanquish him.
But notice how Jesus treated them. He did not attempt to silence them; he did not banish them. Instead, he listened to them, and offered his differing views. And he encouraged his followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Even when discord arose within his own community, he modeled love and acceptance. He didn’t banish Peter when he denied Jesus. And Jesus didn’t vanquish Judas when he betrayed the Lord.
“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
(If you’d like to see how differences are discussed in a Jesus-centered way every week, without vanquishing, check out Lifetree Cafe.)
Are you sure you want to use Jesus as an example of kum-bah-ya hand holding? Our Lordes called the Pharisees snakes and vipers, hypocrites, and white-washed tombs and said their father was the devil.
And I truly believe that’s what he would call the majority of the churches in the US. Maybe that’s why He keeps exposing people and things, to bring all things low. As we all know – the Cross is the great equalizer of all men.
I would have to agree with Carla. He may not have “banished them,” but He certainly came to put them out of a “job.” The curtain was torn in two and Christ did “raise” a new “temple.” Of course, Christ’s persecutors didn’t get their official eviction notice until 70 AD ;-)) Sure, Jesus didn’t make them mute or open the earth to swallow them, but he spoke harsh words…words that are closer to “shut up you filthy liars,” than, “I see what your saying…” But let’s remember, he did say to their taunts on the cross, “Father, forgive them…” Also, we must distinguish the difference when dealing with the unbeliever and the believer, as Christ exemplifies with His words to the clergy of the day and many other passages dealing with fellow members of the Body in the bible (e.g. church discipline).
I think the crux of the problem is we as believers don’t distinguish between fact, faith, and opinion, and to our own detriment. The reality is, we know very little, believe more, and opine about everything. A fact is… a command is given to be followed… and as Thom pointed out, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” is a command. Now, to define “enemy,” “persecute,” and “love” is up to each of us.
Too bad Keller is a Calvinist
What is a Calvinist? Why it that bad or good?
As one who follows the teachings of Jacobus Arminius, I enjoy reading John Calvin and find the ‘controversy’ amusing. ‘Arminians’ generally could care less, the thinking having arisen out of a failed attempt to defend Calvinism scripturally. Calvinists take their theology pretty seriously and from the beginning, oppressed each other over it.
This has nothing to do with his thoughts. Its called deflection…trying to move the conversation away from the subject spoken of. Standard way of saying I don’t agree but I cannot explain why I don’t agree or I am wrong but you will never be able to prove it.
Thanks for the thoughtful article. This also applies to families. One relative was so upset about my spiritual walk they posted to a blog site about my husband and myself. Disparaging any and everything we were doing. This relative also felt it necessary to cut off relations to a second family member over faith matters. All this as they continued to believe their walk was on track, which it was not. As of today this family member is struggling with all matters in their lives. My love for them never ceases, nor my prayers.
Venom has to be called for what it is, spiritual emptiness!
The article is especially cojent to me in that, for the first time in my 70-year history with various protestant churches, this year for the first time, I was ‘churched!’ I was called to a spiritual committee meeting and told the terms under which I would be welcome: 1] no more greeting or ushering; 2] no speaking on testimony Sundays, especially on ‘my idea’ of tithing (we tithe to God, not to the church); 3] enter the church and sit quietly listening to political ideas; 4] no more replying to their political posts on FaceBook! In other words, I was no longer welcome!
In my case, it was really an answer to prayer as I had asked the Lord whether I should continue in the church. He told me I should stay, but I could leave when they threw me out! Before Thom’s article, I had not supposed my troubles more widespread. ‘If my people who are called by my Name… will turn from their wicked ways… (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This is sad to hear 🙁
Well actually, you sound pretty eccentric. Some people mistake abrasiveness & eccentricity for spiritual insight, but I think they are wrong.
What I find most troubling about this emergent brutality in public discourse is how it will inevitably squelch opportunities for the Gospel.
What we see in the toxic politics of today is “team sports”, not reasoned debate. “My team is always right. Your team is evil.” It is a bully version of the old “us vs. them” tribalism. And those outside of the Gospel will always label us within the Gospel as a tribe of “thems” rendering the reasoned content of the Gospel irrelevant to their determined divide. Just as today the issues are irrelevant to the political divide. “Your side is just evil.”
For us nothing is new here. The followers of Jesus have always found them selves as “thems” instead of “us’s”
but that perception has been most frequently pierced by the demonstration of love in the face of it. This needs to be our focus if we want our message, our Savior, to be heard above this tribal shouting. God grant us the patience and grace to communicate that all mankind is in the fallen tribe of “us”, and train our lips to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Truth without love is condemning. Love without truth is patronizing. Lord give us balance.
And then there is the Jesus who screamed, yelled, flipped over tables, and drove people out of the building using a bullwhip……….
Yes he did, to the leaders that had taken Gods place of worship and turned it into a store to buy forgiveness. His attacks were always to the religious leaders because of what they had done or were doing. He came to save those that needed to be saved. The religious leaders of His day (much like ours today) thought they knew it all and no one could tell them different.
Good article Thom!
Seems like the Church is going down into the Devil’s hand or more precisely said, IT is already Down in the Devil’s hand since the demise of apostle John. Where is the brotherly love in the Church gone to? Who is that leader that have power like the rulers over the Gentiles to exercise lordship over them? That leader ought to be deposed but it is most likely near impossible to depose a leader. Many are unaware of a leader is a servant of all in the church, Not empowered as lord nor head of the church.
Mark 10 : 43-45
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles to exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
Leaders are servants Not Lords.
But in today churches, we have adopted the RCC policy to exercise lordship over us which is the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.
Rev 2 : 6
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
We are already indoctrinated by RCC and have all been led astray. No one today knows the full doctrine of Christ for we know in part only. (1 Cor 13 : 9 – For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (12) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.)
So then we need to debate on doctrines or how else can we be corrected as none of us thinks that our doctrine can ever be wrong (each denomination doctrine differs from one another).
Jesus didn’t banish Peter when he denied Jesus. And Jesus didn’t vanquish Judas when he betrayed the Lord.
BUT HE will not reveals the Truth to the Pharisees and religious leaders. Nor will HE reveals the Truth to the proud Christians who thinks that they are never wrong (especially in doctrines). That is why HE speaks in parables among the multitudes that follow after Him. Those who rejects Moses (law) are in serious trouble (especially in doctrines).
God’s laws never changes nor abolished.
First, please spell out your acronym’s (I am assuming RCC stands for Roman Catholic Church). Many readers may not understand what is being said.
Second, don’t confuse a ‘leader’ with a Pasteur or anyone else that claims authority in the common church. A leader leads. Jesus is our Shepard. (and as a point of interest the dumbest mammal alive is a sheep)
Third, Gods laws were fulfilled once and all by Jesus and His death on the cross. His last words were “It is finished.” At that point the law was complete and done, so yes God does make changes as He gave a new covenant through His Son. So ‘Moses’s Law and his doctrines’ were done with. We have two commandments that Jesus gave us to follow. Beyond that we have a relationship with Jesus, one on one.
All of us have fallen short of the Glory of God. Discussing the different doctrines in the Bible are good for understanding and growing in the Lord, not for threatening others as to what or how they should interpret the Bible..
Finally if you will read the New Testament closely you will not the find the following doctrines that are constantly being passed on to each generation of Christians:
a. Tithing, nowhere in the New Testament are we told to tithe. This was a ‘law’ of Moses under the old covenant. (we have offerings which are based on a different train of thought)
b. Churches, nowhere in the original Greek language is assembly of two or three of believers called a church. That definition means assembly. There is only one Church and we belong to it via our acceptance of what Jesus did on the cross for us. No denominations ever existed in the original church.
Bruce Scheffler, would you elaborate on the differences between a leader and a pastor?
Do you mean that deacons, bishops, apostles and shepherds are also leaders?
Please forgive me. RCC stands for Roman Catholic Church.
All of us ought to debate more in the love for one another and putting aside my own / our pride to correct one another. I am sure that no one is fully correct (in doctrines). Correction has been very good for me as I have been wrong many times and I have learned a lot from others. I have listened to so many debates yet there are many more which I have not heard before. It is very good for all of us share. As I have been wrong before but now am corrected by others, I would like to share on my former mistakes.
1) “It is finished.” At that point the law was complete and done. ?
I once thought the law was complete and done with.
What is finished is a big question? Is it the Law is abolished?
But Jesus did not come to abolish the law but instead fulfill them perfectly because No one is able to do so for we have all sinned. Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly and He commands us to be perfect (Mat 5:17, 18, 48) He commands us according to the law (Due 18:13). Paul confirms this in Romans 3:31 – we establish the law of Moses.
2) I agree that the sacrifices, tithes and offerings by the law has changed because of Jesus offered Himself once and for all of us. He is our High priest forever. Only the other laws on Aron priesthood system has changed but Not the other laws of Moses.
3) so yes God does make changes as He gave a new covenant through His Son. So ‘Moses’s Law and his doctrines’ were done with. ?
God’s new covenant is this : Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. Heb 8 : 8 – For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 8:10 – For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
* In the New Covenant for Jews and Gentiles, God (by Jesus) will put His laws into our mind, and write them in our hearts so that we will obey them with the help of the Holy Spirit, In Order That the righteousness of the LAW might be Fulfilled in US, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. So it is also We with the help of the Holy Spirit who enable us to obey the LAW that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us as the evident of our Faith in Christ. Walking in the flesh one will surely sin against the law of God. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Romans 8 : 7).
Romans 8 : 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
If the law of God has been done away with ( “It is finished.” At that point the law was complete and done ), then there will be lawlessness, thus sin would not exist.
I agree with you that No denominations ever existed in the original church.
There is only One body which is only One Church. When we ( 2 or 3 to many ) who are called the elect gather together, Jesus is in our midst. So then 2 or 3 is also the body of Christ which is the Church. There are no commandments by God that an assembly (worship service) must have a minimum numbers of persons. It could be just 2 or more but I surely prefer more.
The danger is when a individual thinks they know everything, or what they believe is correct and every other view is wrong, they (we) can get spiritual pride. This manifests itself in many ways. The Pharisees manifested spiritual pride but some of them were also ‘professional’ religionists, officially appointed leaders of a state religion that had deteriorated into a kind of spiritual arm of the state.
That’s a really good comment!!!