Our Zeal Tempered With Loving Those We Disagree With

In the Protestant world (or Reformed if you prefer), each viewpoint eventually becomes an issue worth dividing over. Time and time again, churches splinter and people leave churches over the silliest of issues. Each denomination and religious group has a heritage of splintering because each Protestant group divided from another group at their origin. This fragmentation is exacerbated by our desire to be right on the truth and stand up for what we believe in. During the whole process, we have the tendency to demonize the people sharing another viewpoint. Forget sharing the "truth in love;" we share the truth and leave no room for dissenters.

We turn every stance into a reason for separation. Even on the essentials, we need to make sure that they are always expressed in love. Not having a clearly defined statement on what the essentials are, we find ourselves in a world of confusion. What issues are worth standing up for? The trinity, the structure of the church, the role of women, spiritual gifts, the Lord's Supper, loving our neighbor. We are left with every point, including the minutest points that we understand differently from everyone else, becoming an essential because it is essential for us to live out the truth, even to the minutest details, as we understand it.

I was recently stuck with looking in the mirror when I read through Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution. Encountering someone that follows Christ in a way somewhat different from myself, I realized how I must sound to those that follow Christ differently than me. Being so excited and zealous for the way I am called to live out the gospel, I confuse my personal calling for a universal calling. I have the tendency to try and shoehorn everyone into my way of following Christ.

The blessing, and frustration at times, of the Bible is that it is vague on the specifics of how we are to live out the life of Christ here and now. We are given broad principles - love your neighbor, glorify God, make disciples - but we are left without many specifics on the lesser details. I should always view that as a blessing. Being a Christian is not about some legalistic checklist that we can complete and be done with; it is about knowing God and bringing about his will in our specific circumstances. Every person alive has a different situation that they find themselves in, yet there is a best course for that situation. We need to be close enough to God that we can discern his leading and the path we are supposed to go down. Being a Christian is not about knowing a book but about living the life God would have us live here and now. The Book should be a tool to help us do that.

We need to find a way to let our passion be kindled while at the same time always exemplifying love to those we disagree with.

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."