In reading a lot of opinions and responses lately I am wondering if we need to be so harsh. A lot of it, of course, relates to current political back and forth, but it includes far more than just that. I read a lot of it on Facebook, in periodicals, book reviews, blogs, and a variety of other places. What is particularly unsettling to me is the tone of a lot of writing within the Christian sphere.
What really got my attention was what one author wrote in the revised and updated edition of one of his books. The first edition, published in 2005, dealt with a controversial subject among Bible believing Christians. You can tell how beat up he has been by what he writes in the first chapter of the new edition: “Instead of immediately consigning our opponents to the lake of fire, let’s remember that we love Jesus. Let’s remember that we’re trying to understand Jesus, and worship Jesus, and obey Jesus, and become like Jesus, and share Jesus the very best that we can.”
I don’t want to say what the issue he deals with is because I don’t want it to get in the way of the larger observation I am trying to make. What he writes is a good reminder for everyone who wades into the choppy waters of controversial biblical and theological matters.
I’m not suggesting we should never critique or refute the ideas and interpretations of others. I just think we should be respectful to those with whom we disagree and not attack their motives. We can be passionate about what we believe and still be gracious in our disagreement.
The reason this bothers me so much is because I have been guilty of it too many times myself. Metaphorically speaking, too many times I have shot the fly on the wall with a bazooka. And while I killed the fly, I also did a lot of unintended damage.
For example, I have some strong opinions when it comes to the meaning of I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and the general purpose of the book of Revelation. In terms of the greater Bible believing community, I hold a minority position with regard to both the purpose of Revelation as well as what many call “the rapture.” There have been times in the past when I was unduly harsh about others in talking about my understanding of “the end times.” What a rebuke it was to me when I read in Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth “no one should approach Revelation without a proper degree of humility!” Our harshness towards others often seems a little prideful.
In the church I grew up in we learned a few slogans we claimed defined us. My two favorites were and are “We are Christians Only, but not the Only Christians” and “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Love.” The first is unique to my church background, but the second is widely used. It comes from a German Lutheran theologian around 1627.
Here’s the challenge: even if we can’t agree on what is essential and non-essential, even if we agree something is essential but don’t have unity on it, we are to be loving. Do we need to be so harsh?
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