Posted by: minnow | April 17, 2010

Agreeing to Disagree–Oh Really?!

And they will know we are Christians by our love.

Most of us recognize the above statement from a fairly popular chorus.  Maybe just as many know the sentiments came from a statement in the Gospel of John.  During the last supper Jesus told the 12, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The very night Jesus washed the disciples feet Judas betrayed Him, the rest scattered, and Peter denied he even knew Him–three times.  What a heady crazy experience the followers of Jesus went through over the next forty plus days.  And, that was only the beginning of what walking out Christ’s statement to them would mean.

As recorded in Acts, the Holy Spirit did not have a much easier time with Christ followers than Jesus did.  Ananias and Sapphira were caught in a lie.  There were squabbles over the daily distribution of food.  Peter was criticized for eating with uncircumcised men.  Paul and Barnabas fought over the worthiness of another Brother, disagreeing so vehemently they parted company. 

Is it any wonder we present day followers have trouble agreeing to disagree?

Some of us (sadly, myself included way too often) debate doctrinal/faith issues as if our lives depended on it.  To some ways of thinking our spiritual lives do.  Yet, the second those of us who call ourselves Christ followers begin to put being right ahead of being love we step out of line.  We are no longer followers.  We are lone sheep, rogue warriors, or worse.  We not only misrepresent Christ but we put ourselves at risk. of missing the point.

True confession: loving fellow believers is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  In fact, most believers bug me.  I have to work hard to be civil to the self-proclaimed Bible experts and the morality police among us.  And, I am frustrated by our general lack of consideration for “the least of these”.  Yet if I am to call myself a follower I must find a way to love those with divergent opinions, priorities, and behavior, even those within the Church*.

Recently I looked in on a conversation (as it was recorded on a Facebook page) between a friend of mine and another “friend” of his in which my friend’s friend: called my friend’s salvation into question, accused him of believing things my friend does not believe, labeled him an “oracle of deception”, and described him as standing with blood on his hands. Unlike his friend, my friend did not engage in any kind of labeling or (from my ability to detect within the conversation itself) false accusations.   Both these men call themselves Christians.  Both agreed to disagree and to remain friends.  And while disagreeing is not all that comfortable, people can agree to disagree by simply setting aside certain areas of discussion.  On the other hand, I would personally have a terribly difficult time remaining in relationship with someone who spoke to and about me in the way my friend’s friend spoke to and about him.  Still, I am confronted by Christ’s words.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” implies, no demands, we have relationship.  If my big argument with my Brothers and Sisters is that we need to build relationship with and show compassion toward those we prefer to label “sinners” I better figure out how to practice what I preach with regard to them.  I wish a little pill existed which would just make me nice.  Unfortunately, there are days when even if there was such a pill I might intentionally forget to take it. 

In the end I am faced with a good example in my friend, a better one in Jesus, and a choice.  Each day, in every encounter, I choose the heart with which I build relationship.  I can encourage, invite, remain patient, and include.  Or, I can judge, condemn, reject, and accuse.  Each day, each encounter, I decide.  It reminds me of a passage in Deuteronomy, “This day I call heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life that you and your children may live.” (30:19)  Free will.  Choice.  What will I do today?

* When I use the term Church I am talking about all who call themselves Christians–in and outside the Building.

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