Which Hill? April 18, 2017
It has been said that leaders must determine which hills are worth dying on. Not every hill is worth fighting for.
Unfortunately, our world has become increasingly polarized, and people find it painfully difficult to compromise or find middle ground. To give an inch is viewed as surrendering everything.
Americans are reminded of this phenomenon every time they observe politics. Now this blog is not political, and I do not intend to take sides here. But I do want to comment on the recent attempt by the Republican Party to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). There was a broad consensus across both parties that changes needed to be made to the current pan for it to be financially sustainable. The Republicans came up with a plan, and every Democrat expressed their intent to vote against it. While we assume that no Democrat could stomach the proposed plan, it was also evident that no Democrat could bear to vote for anything that appeared to make President Trump successful. To be fair, when President Obama was in office, Republicans were equally intent to vote against his initiatives. As a result, the nation failed to receive much needed legislation that could have addressed its ills. Politics trumped national good.
Within the Republican Party, there was universal consensus that Obamacare needed to be repealed. Yet there were Republicans who refused to vote for the plan because it did not satisfy their principles. As a result, the nation was left with an unaltered Obamacare. Certainly there are Christians who support each of the camps mentioned. And, while it is admirable to uncompromisingly uphold principles, the outcome was that the Republicans who opposed the Republican plan were left with an even less desirable Democrat plan. The issue hotly debated by Republicans since then has been how to maintain principles and yet still work with others. Can you give and take and yet remain true to yourself? Despite having a majority in the House and Senate as well as controlling the White House, Republicans have so far been unable to keep one of their primary election promises.
For many observers of the American political system, it appears both comical and tragic that so little can be accomplished as long as certain elements demand that everything be done in their prescribed manner.
Sadly, such an uncompromising attitude has also crept into the Church. Many subsets of Christians insist that, unless every one of their doctrines, standards, and viewpoints are met, they cannot work with other Christians. Social media is rife with people posting their disdain for Christians who do not view theology, Scripture, or society the way they do.
This reality became apparent to anyone who observed social media during the recent Easter season. If anything ought to unite Christians it should be Easter! If there is one aspect of Jesus’ life that should bring Christians of all stripes together it ought to be His resurrection.
Yet over this past week, I witnessed a wide array of Christians more concerned about correcting other Christians’ doctrinal shortcomings than with sharing the good news of Christ’s resurrection to unbelievers. I saw people criticizing churches that observed “Good Friday.” I saw people criticize churches that invited the “non elect” to salvation. I saw scathing critiques of the various Christian-themed movies currently in circulation. Christians viciously criticized certain Christian organizations. I couldn’t help but wonder if these people had any idea who the real enemy was.
I know the standard rebuttal. Once we allow compromise in even the smallest detail of doctrine or practice, we are on the slippery slope to orthodoxy oblivion. I am not advocating that people alter their beliefs in order to “get along.” Far from it. But I am suggesting that it is possible to love and support other Christians who do not have the same theology or practice that you do.
I have the opportunity to minister in numerous denominations. I have always found the experience to be enriching and informative. It has never caused me to change my theology, though it has often deepened and strengthened my perspective. It has been like meeting cousins from a different branch of my family tree and discovering with delight that we have developed many of the same habits.
The problem in today’s world is that people blindly believe that they cannot work with, like, or even engage in civil discourse with anyone with differing viewpoints. To be seen talking with such people is to make you suspect within your own camp. Such an attitude is how ethnic genocide and inquisitions have been fueled.
I am not so insecure in my beliefs that I am afraid to talk with someone who believes differently than I do. I certainly don’t need a “safe place” to which I can escape if someone who thinks differently than I do happens to be on the same premises.
I am concerned that some religious zealots find more pleasure in conflict than they do in truth. Sadly, some preachers spend more time in their sermons criticizing others than they devote to pointing people to Christ. Seeing Christians using their ammunition on each other rather than on their enemies is disappointing. The apostle Paul said, “For the love of Christ compels us . . .” (2 Cor. 5:14). No one would accuse Paul of waffling in his beliefs. But Paul was profoundly humbled by his encounter with the risen Christ. He used to think he was divinely appointed to judge other’s orthodoxy. After meeting Christ he understood he had been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).
Mark my words well. Don’t ever compromise your beliefs if they are founded on the unchanging Scriptures. But also understand this: being kind and gracious to a Christian who holds different views than you does not mean you have compromised yourself in any way! Rather, it may indicate that you are simply expressing the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Trust me. That’s not a bad thing.