I don’t know about where you live but here in St. Pete we don’t have a bunch of inter-church battles. It makes me hope that those sorts of things are starting to die out. I do, however, see those things taking place in other places and it really disturbs me. We have been notoriously bad about airing our dirty laundry for the whole world to see (eg the quail ridge quarrel and the newspaper ad). I think more and more the old form of this is dying. It used to be that brotherhood publications would write people us for various offenses and call people out from pulpits and through bulletin articles. While the method seems to be dying, the spirit of such attacks seems to be alive and well and it always will be. It has taken on new clothes – negative blogging about other Christians and churches. Somehow hypertext emboldens people to write things they would never say to someone’s face. We have wrongly seen each other as the enemy and missed the mark entirely. That calls for repentance.
How not to define the enemy:
There are two things the enemy is not. First, that enemy is not each other. We have to stop fighting and understand that it is OKAY to disagree about some things. Second, the enemy is not the lost people in the world. If you look at the actions of groups like the AFA or Southern Baptist Convention you see an attack dog mentality that furthers the preconceived ideas in the world that Christians are a bunch of hate-mongering bigots. We cannot make up our own enemy. We cannot define our enemy as those we disagree with (who knows…we might just be wrong on some things!). If error is the defining mark of the enemy then we all must admit that the enemy is no further away than the tip of our own noses because we have all changed our minds on some issues in our lifetimes. If you haven’t you either will or else you are too arrogant to accept the fact that you don’t have it all together. We also cannot label the enemy in a way that is convenient to us our to our agenda. People have labeled the enemy as everything from those who use the wrong songbook to those who use overhead projectors and I am sure far dumber and more ignorant things than that.
Lessons from the playground:
It is important that we unify out of the fact that we are all fighting the same enemy. There is a unifying force that takes place when groups realize they are all fighting the same enemy. Do you remember those days on the playground when the bully finally got his due because all the little people realized their was power in numbers and they decided not to put up with it any more? The enemy wants for us to divide and bicker and fight and argue and make ourselves look anathema to the world we are trying to reach. The enemy wants to make our salt taste like lemon and pull the plug on our shining the light. The more we divide and the more we spin our wheels having inter-church disputes the less likely we are to be focusing on the lost and dying world we were called to reach out to. Remember – Christ did not commission us to go on a Crusade to fragment over being right. Christ did commission us to reach the lost. It is time for those who preach and teach Christ crucified to at the very least stop the arguing and start reaching the lost. If we tried to reach the lost as hard and with as much zeal as we have used to argue we could have reached millions more people by now. Don’t you think that makes the enemy laugh? Don’t you think it makes God sad?
Who is our enemy?
The only answer to this question has to come from scripture. Ephesians 6:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Period. Not the church across the street or across town. Not the denominations. Not those who differ with us on how to worship. Paul specifically said our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Why have we gone directly against Paul’s teaching here? Why have we taken our eye off the ball? We will have many questions to answer for the opportunities missed because of the lost time and energy given over to infighting and not to reaching the lost. That fact alone should make us weep. There is a real sense of freedom when you stop fighting the wrong fight and get on board with the one that matters.
This is going to take more than discussion and coming to some good opinions on how to fix.
- The fruits of the spirit have been rejected and replaced with a sectarian spirit of enmity. This is going to take a full-blown recovery intervention just like someone coming out of treatment for drug abuse or alcohol.We have been addicted to power struggles, arrogance, and argumentation.
- We all need to repent for any role we have ever played in being divisive.
- Call, write, or email someone you have had a doctrinal dispute with in the past and apologize for any wrong attitude, words, or spirit you might have brought into that conversation.
- Be slow to call someone out on error and understand that you have been wrong a time or two in your life. Then if you still feel the need to talk with that brother or sister, do so through an attitude of love, respect, and compassion. Also, don’t assume that you even understand their position or that you have all the right answers yourself.
- When you start to view another human being as the enemy to be attacked, take a breather and hold your tongue. It might just keep you from doing something you might later regret.