The past couple of days have been beyond thought provoking. I don’t really like labels, but often times they are the fastest way to identify a set of beliefs. They aren’t all bad. I mean, the word “Christian” is a label that I embrace gladly, despite modern day cultural Christianity being basically meaningless here in the Bible Belt. So, what started this thought process? Yesterday, I read a post over at Deeper Church by Amber Haines, and not only did the post challenge me, but one of her comments challenged me concerning the issue of labels. Then, today, she basically followed up on that issue on her own blog, theRunaMuck.
These words ring true in my soul at a depth that I can’t really comprehend right now. Yet, I’m forced to stop and ask what this really means. If it means that we want to avoid labels so that the least, the lost, and the lonely can find shelter and refuge inside the fortress that is King Jesus, then yes and amen. If it means doing everything we can to not be an obstacle to those trying to find hope, a hope they can only find in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, then yes and amen. If it means laying our pride down and letting the basic tenets of the gospel take hold of someone’s heart and trusting God to guide them down the path of sanctification, then yes and amen. But this does come with a warning, and I believe a Biblical warning.
Second Tier Issues
Most of what the Church has gotten hung up over are what C.S. Lewis calls “Second Tier Issues.” These are concepts that may be very central to Theology, but not necessarily for salvation in Christ. These can include method of baptism, predestination and election, free will, gender roles, etc. Historically, the Church universal has not included any of these issues in what it takes to be saved, because Scripture doesn’t. However, while they may be secondary issues on the point of salvation, they are indeed primary to Theology. They may not be necessary to save us, but they absolutely shape our view of God, and our expression and model of Jesus. You see, while salvation is absolutely the foundation the first story of the house, these issues help shape the feel of the house. Does it have two stories so it can handle more people, trials, and accommodations? Is it plain and bare, or when someone peers inside will they see the beauty and glory of God made manifest in your life and walk?
If the world sees the Church actively divided against itself, quarreling with each other, then that is their view of God. Instead of seeing God as the majestic, sovereign King and Lord over all of creation, they may see him as the ordinary dad who can’t keep control of his kids at the grocery store. If our Theology shows that we believe God is big, and can handle more than we could ever ask, then we portray a Jesus who really can save us from ourselves. If our Theology shows that God is small, then how can He save us? How can a small God offer comfort to the widow, the orphan, the abused? Which Jesus does your Theology, and how you defend that Theology, portray?
Time and a Place
Certainly, we must fight for truth and defend solid Theology. But not always verbally, and usually not in public. There are indeed times to do as Paul and Jesus did, confronting the Pharisees, Gentiles, and others that would legitimately detract from the gospel. Usually, though, that isn’t the case. Normally, it’s someone who has a heart to bring God glory as much as anyone else, but they differ on God’s sovereignty in election. It’s someone who longs to see Jesus exalted, but they disagree on the roles of men and women in the Church and home. Should we have conversations to explore, examine, debate, reprove, and rebuke each other concerning these issues? Yes. But those should be done in love and grace, for the other person’s benefit. If your main goal in correcting someone is to defend your rights rather than glorify God, you should probably stay silent and pray about the whole situation. They should also be done privately. Yes, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees publicly, but He also taught and corrected the disciples privately. Fellow Christians, 98% of the time, ARE NOT THE ENEMY!
I fear that the ease of blogging to give anyone a voice has made it too easy for everyone to have a voice. No one to really monitor whether what’s being said brings glory to God, or whether it simply stirs up controversy without any felt love, grace, or gospel.
So, yes, debate, argue, and study Scripture. Be adamant about bringing God glory, and make that your focus. Everyone has a framework of Theology, and it’s usually different than the next person. What we have to prayerfully discern is whether the person is really trying to bring glory to God, or whether they are causing controversy for the sake of controversy. I believe Scripture would tell us to teach and love the former, even if we disagree when it’s over, and avoid the latter.
Soli Deo Gloria