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.)