This is the heartbreaking truth of where many of us are today in Western evangelicalism. I can’t get on the internet without hearing one group or individual attacking another. I shouldn’t have to say that in the body of Christ, this ought not to be.
So why is this happening? Why do I hear baptists attacking catholics? Why do I hear pentecostals attacking methodists? I’ve been doing some hard thinking, and some honest examining in the mirror, too. (I can’t help it, I just gotta: “I’m lookin’ at the maa-an in the mirra…” You’re welcome, you’ll have that playing in your head for awhile.) And here’s what I’ve concluded about this phenomenon: I think the reasons are numerous, and the reasons are ugly.
We call attention to what we deem to be the “log” in order to avoid examining the ugly reality of our own “specks.” Let’s be honest. It doesn’t take much to find fault in others—after all, we’re all pretty faulty. But it takes courage to acknowledge our own faults. Facing our own flaws takes humility and vulnerability, and it can be painful. I hate it when I realize I’ve been wrong. It hurts to have my mistakes laid out in front of me, to take ownership of them and confess. But after the initial sting, the freedom on the other side is so sweet. It’s in the admission of the ugly that I get to cross over into beauty. “Beauty from ashes,” scripture tells us. And really, isn’t the humble and courageous way the Jesus Way? If we claim to follow this man who washed dirty feet, who took on the position of a slave, and who endured the pain of the cross, we can’t get away with accusing our brothers and sisters with airs of superiority. That’s just hypocrisy in the third degree. Grace we have been freely given, so let’s give abundant grace to one another.
We shout our opinions at one another because that comes more naturally than submitting to one another in love. From Cain it began and continues on in every heart, this anger against our brother and sister. We are predisposed to violence, to getting our way at the expense of everyone else. Even if only with our words, we are poised in hostility when Jesus calls us to take the posture of sacrificial love. Submission is scary, and it means a surrender of self. But that’s what we signed up for when chose to follow Jesus—we said yes to taking up our cross. To imitate Jesus is to give up the ways of dominance and assertion of self and power over others. To walk like Jesus, we must learn the art of listening, of surrendering, of serving. Instead of shouting down one another to be heard, let’s seek to hear and understand.
We sequester ourselves and fearfully put up walls, because embracing those who differ from us feels scary. Why do we fear the different-from-us? Is it because we fear “contamination”? Is it because we think our own core beliefs will be shaken? I’d venture to say if they feel that precarious, maybe they need to be shaken up a little bit, even if only to strengthen the ones that really need to stand the test. God made this whole big, wide, world, with as many ways of relating to him as there are people. If we barricade ourselves from one another, we’re only missing out on a whole lot of his beauty. John wrote that there is no fear in love, and God IS love, so if we do ANYTHING out of fear, we need to take a step back and reevaluate. God our father is perfect love, and if his spirit dwells within us, then fear should have no place in our lives. Let’s resist the temptation to take the easy way out and stay in our comfort zone, and instead, live with open arms to one another. Let’s make relationships across borderlines and denominations. Let’s live the unity Jesus prayed for right before he went to the cross.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.