I’ve been trying to process a number of both compatible and competing thoughts around how Christians handle differences in doctrine and expression of Christianity. More importantly, I’ve been thinking about how can the body unite around essential truths. Admittedly, it is somewhat fueled by acceptance of a position in a non-profit ministry that evolved out of the United Methodist Church. While I knew there would be doctrinal differences, I also was sold on the program and thought it to be a remarkable expression of Christ’s love in action.
Knowing that this organization upheld Wesleyan values, I had to ask my Calvinist, conservative self if I could handle the doctrinal rub. The one thing I kept coming back to was the commitment to building up children and the young adults who served them
I’ve also become somewhat weary of excessive complaints of others and how this or that person is not uphold truth. There is naturally a tension between articulating Christianity that is faithful to the historic and biblical witness and demonstrating the love of Christ in action. Truth and love are inseparable companions, yet at times it seems that turns into either a loosy-goosy Christianity or overly critical complaints.
The goal of our Christianity is to proclaim Christ, represent him well through growth in the body. But not everybody is on the same page. We have centuries of doctrinal splintering and exacerbation through increased media channels. How to increase unity in the body? I observe that our denominational and/or tribal allegiances can thwart the unity that is and should be possible.
So I was pondering today how can this happen? We don’t want to lose truth but we don’t want to lose love either. We should take serious that belief in Christ means being tied to his body in spite of differences. What emerged out of my swarming thoughts were these three categories that can have an impact on unity:
The Exhorter looks to build people up. They may always seem to be up and want others to share their enthusiasm in the Lord. The exhorter may not necessarily care too much about in-depth doctrinal articulation but they sure do love the Lord and they want everyone to enjoy him as much as they do. The Exhorter cares greatly about unity, about love and expressing that in tangible ways.
The Educator looks to build the body up of Christ up with learning about God on his terms. The Educator will observe more than speak and seek ways to instruct God’s people in ways that will motivate worship. The Educator reserves opinions regarding disagreements and instead, opts for teachable moments and seeks to build bridges. The educator cares about truth but they also care about love and take serious the fact that Jesus said that is what his disciples would be known for.
The Exhaler looks to express how the correct articulation about Christianity. They really have no other motive in mind but to vent about how other’s are not getting it, don’t understand it or leading people down the wrong way. The Exhaler’s motive most likely is to uphold truth, but really end up venting the air that is inside about the their disgruntlement. The Exhaler cares about truth but love gets lost in the process and they end up as clanging gongs that no one outside their denomination or tribe want to listen to.
I contend that Scripture speaks positively of the first two but not that the latter. Exhorters and Educators will help foster unity. I’m not that much of an Exhorter, strive to be an Educator but know I’ve fallen into the Exhaler pit from time to time. It’s tough because I care deeply about how we think about God and being honest to his revelation in Scripture. But I’m also mindful that we can fall into the trap of just blowing off a lot of steam that has no redemptive value outside of the comfort we derive from upholding truth.
Lord, help us to seek a healthy balance and recognize that it is ultimately you who wins people. Help us to represent your body well in the midst of so many disagreements.