Navigating recent months and political events with so many friends who are people of strong and varied convictions makes life something of minefield. Even a casual comment has the potential of causing a rift that can take a long time to heal. A Facebook post that I made on Saturday, a sincere expression about my convictions about the sacredness of life, blew up into a tempest of accusations, questions. Reading my friends’ words, I felt like a soldier in no man’s land, caught in the crossfire. Having people disagree with me is not a new thing. Every pastor knows that leading a congregation involves experiencing positive and negative responses to what is said and how it is said. But, when friends do battle over something I say, it is a reason for great sadness. This Monday morning finds me in sorrow for my friends.
Christians are called to great grace, to profound love, to enduring acceptance; not because we all agree on everything, not because we think the same way, but because we serve the same Lord. In a letter to a bickering church, Paul cries with words that plead for peace. He says, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6, NLT)
We may find the convictions of another quiet unpleasant. We may even think they are wrong. Indeed, they may be wrong (or we could be) but unless there is open, persistent sin- we have no reason to cut off relationship with those with who we differ. A mark of spiritual maturity is understanding that we, the Body of Christ, are called together by a shared Covenant, not by common race, experience, or worldview.
Let’s be honest – life is simpler when we eliminate people with opinions and/or personality traits we find disagreeable from our circle of friends. It is great to sit around with people who like the same football team, share our politics, and understand our words without the need for explanation or clarification. The natural inclination is to create just those kinds of groups, even in our church. But, living that way is not the great vision that God has for His family. He has included white, black, rich, poor, liberal, conservative, Democrat and Republican, Ford and Honda drivers, in His call to grace, to shared spiritual gifts; to create something wonderful, amazing, and rich in texture that could only exist because of Jesus Christ.
We are taught that because of Christ’s love we are linked in life. “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT) Taking the principle of that passage, we might write it into our time like this. Because you are children of God, saved by Christ, you no longer are first identified as pro-life or pro-choice, as a Republican or a Democrat, as a man or woman, as a Catholic or an Evangelical. Social definitions are completely secondary to your one true calling – Christ-follower.
For some the path to unity is to mute our voices, to conceal our convictions, to unfriend those who ‘offend’ us on Facebook. No, that is not the response that honors our high calling. Instead, we patiently continue the conversation, we ask for understanding, we pray hard for a supernatural work of love in us that preserves the family of God and His Holy Church, not because it is fun or easy, but because in this amazing expression of love and unity, what becomes clear to the world around us is that we are people who have been transformed.
Here is a word from the Word. My earnest prayer and desire is that it will convict us, call us, and unite us. “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Galatians 5:13-15, The Message)
This blog is not an appeal for you to agree with me about all issues. It is an appeal for love, for gentle acceptance, as is fitting for children of the Heavenly Father.