Thursday, May 17, 2007

May Our Shouts Be Reduced to Civility

There seems to be a lot of shouting these days. I am not speaking of the arena of politics, nor am I speaking of the cultural clashes or the roar of thousands gathered to see a sporting contest. Sadly, I am speaking of conflict within the church.

Throughout our land, churches are best with turmoil and division. Factions of Christians have lined up against one another. You have heard the labels, they sound as if they are names for sports teams or political parties: Liberal, Conservative, Progressive, Legalistic. Voices are raised, tempers flare, feelings are hurts, and brothers are divided.

“You’re violating my conscience,” shouts one. “You are weak in your understanding,” responds another. “You’re seeking to destroy the church,” one levels. “You’re just holding us back with your stubbornness,” chastises another. “It’s my way or no way,” argues yet another.

The fighting seems to make a mockery of Jesus’ words, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13.35). The shouting seems to dismiss the prayer of our Lord: “I ask . . . That they may be one” (Jn. 17.20-21).

It is human nature to defend what seems to be right and to promote that which is personally beneficial or comfortable. However, our identity as Christians and as joint heirs of the eternal blessings of God demands that we defer to one another in love. Paul’s words are clear: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. . . . Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in the one body” (Col. 3.12-15).

In this spirit, may each of us defer to one another in love. May our shouts be reduced to civility. May our separate agendas be replaced with the unified agenda of proclaiming God’s eternal love to a lost and dying world. We can get along, we can be one, and we can impact our world with the Gospel of Christ, but we must begin by humbling ourselves.