I love God. I love the Church. I love the gospel. I love truth and talking and debating about truth with my friends. And I believe that absolute, objective truth exists, regardless of whether we’re able to understand it all the time. Truth is truth, and there isn’t a relative version of truth. A claim or belief is either true, or it isn’t. There are certainly matters that Scripture leaves to the conscience of the believer, and that is the objective truth for those issues. Yet, the more I’m involved with blogging and with social media the more I see how discussing these concepts is done poorly. I can’t judge the hearts of men, yet sometimes Christians can come across as the most graceless of people.
I hesitated on writing this post, for at least a week, because I didn’t want it to come from a place of frustration or anger, even. But that place remains concerning this, so I’m writing anyway because I feel I need to.
I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of this. I’m guilty of letting my pride and arrogance lead me to believe that I have a position on a Theological concept covered just because I’ve spent a long time studying it. Whether it’s speaking in tongues, Calvinism, or anything else. It’s taken hard work, and hard lessons, to approach these conversations with grace and humility. And I thank God for any growth I’ve made, and for the blood of Christ that covers my sins in this and for the Spirit’s working despite my efforts.
We need to do better. So often, we come to these discussions with a mindset that proponents of the “other” view are trying to destroy Christianity and the Church. Whether it be Calvinism, Gender Roles, Spiritual Gifts, Homosexuality, etc. We point out how each other are wrong and then hold their wrongness over them, trying to make them feel bad for believing what they believe.
Now, like I said, I believe in absolute truth. I believe that truth is worth discussing and defending, but we aren’t fighting against each other here. We best defend truth when we point the discussion toward the glory of Christ and magnify His name. We best discuss truth when we point toward how each view makes much of Christ, even when part of that is pointing toward His love for us.
Honestly, some beliefs won’t reconcile. Some people won’t agree on tough issues. That doesn’t mean we are one another’s enemy or that we can’t work together for the sake of the gospel and trust God with the results.
We center around truth well when we give each other the benefit of the doubt. I can’t count the times I’ve heard people walking away from a Calvinism/Arminianism conversation saying something like “That Arminian just doesn’t care about God’s glory, he only cares about how it makes him feel!” and “That Calvinist doesn’t care about anyone, all she cares about is that God is just no matter what!”
There is some truth to this, but when that becomes our default answer to why someone disagrees with us we make that truth into little more than a caricature so that we don’t have to wrestle with hard questions.
What if we came to the table believing that the other person honestly does care about how this conversation reflects the glory of God? How would it look if the Arminian gave the Calvinist some grace for not being able to completely articulate the love and justice of God in the context of a smaller conversation (that usually sounds more like an argument)? How would these things go if the Calvinist believed that the Arminian felt so offended by the idea of election because they couldn’t see how it glorified God?
Wouldn’t we then move from a posture of argument to one of honest inquiry and teaching?
How would our influence on the lost be impacted for the better if Complementarians and Egalitarians actually discussed this issue with civility toward one another? To be sure, some do. But most of the time I see these conversations and they are little more than an exchange of bitter feelings and harsh words meant to oppress the other instead of love and care for our fellow brothers and sisters. It becomes about power and not about love and grace. It becomes about preference instead of about gospel.
We hold the other persons wrongness over them and press it into them, trying to make them identify with being wrong. That isn’t wrong in itself. What is wrong is stopping there. There is much talk of what “shaming” is around the blogosphere these days. I can’t think of a better definition than “holding one’s sin over their head.” But here’s the thing, that’s only bad if we stop there. It isn’t cruel to point someone to their shame for the purpose of pointing to their Savior. Jesus did it with the woman at the well. He also acknowledged that the woman caught in adultery had indeed sinned when He told her to “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t ignore it. He pointed both of these women toward redemption. He showed and acknowledged their shame and then gave them grace. Redemption isn’t only being redeemed to something, it’s being redeemed from something.
It isn’t wrong to point out where we think others are wrong. It isn’t wrong to point out where others are in sin. What is wrong is to slam someone with their brokenness, sin, or mistakes and then leave them there without pointing toward the hope, grace, and redemption found in Jesus.
May we do better. Much better.