25 June 2006

Those "other" Christians

Once again, I have been reading about one part of the Body of Christ attacking another part of the Body for not being Christian enough. When I read such things, my stomach ties itself into knots and I feel such anger and frustration. Why do we insist on tearing each other down in order to feel better or more superior about our points of view?
In the last month I have read two brilliant ruminations on how to handle issues of disagreement within the Body of Christ. I don't have permission to reprint them here, but I'm going to do so anyway and beg for forgiveness later.
This first one is from Molly Aley, a brilliant theologian who wrote in a forum discussion dealing with a hot topic...
Scripturally, we aren't told to "be God," sure, and yet, in a sense, we ARE told to "be God..." in that we are told to be His manifestation to the world.
We are told that WE are the body of Christ--that WE are His expression in the earth now. The Body is what moves, the part that involves ACTION, the part that makes manifest whatever it is that the Head wants, right? And we're different members/parts of that Body, or so says Ephesians...
So it makes sense that some of us are going to see things differently...we are different parts of the body, called to different things and yet ALL of us called to obey the Head, whatever it is He tells us to do. Not all the parts will look the same, in other words, even though all might be obeying the Head.
When I walk, my hands do an entirely different thing than my feet do...yet both are expressing the wishes of my head. I'm glad my feet don't grump about how my hands aren't doing the right thing, simply becuase the hands aren't acting like feet!
This means we might not all look the same, even though we all might be obeying the Head! Some of us will be the arms embracing the sinner no matter WHAT, while others of us might be called of God to point out sin (SO THAT we can lead the person into the freedom of obeying God, not just for the sake of pointing out sin).
I think the key is being very in tune with the Spirit.
Because sometimes we're going to personally FEEL like ramming a ton of (deserved) judgement down a person's throat for whatever reason, and yet the Spirit is going to tell us to shut our mouths and to just love on them. He knows what they need and when they need it, so obeying Him is best, even if it's hard to hold in the rant, and hard to just lovingly bless them in kindness at that moment! HE KNOWS, and He knows exactly how those actions are going to impact them for the good.
... And other times, speaking up for righteousness is going to be the LAST thing we want to do, but the Spirit is going to tell us to open our mouths and share His truth, painful as it may be, unpopular as it may make us, difficult as it might sound. But the Spirit knows when a firm word is needed, knows that it is just what should be said at that very moment, and knows how to frame it just right. He knows that it is the best thing for that person's heart, right then, period. In which case, obeying Him by speaking the hard word is the most loving thing we can do for that person.
In other words, this is an area I personally walk very careful in, when it comes to judging the actions of fellow Christians and when it comes to making blanket statements myself.

Such wisdom!
Another incredibly gentle theologian, Ann V. discussed the conundrum of not knowing exactly what to think about these difficult topics on her blog, Holy Experience. As usual, her words are so eloquent and illustrative of the emotion that accompanies this wrestling we engage in. I'm editing her post for space, but please consider jumping over to her blog to read "Importance of Theology... and Childlike Faith."

I am troubled. Deeply so.... Reformed, Emergent, Post-modern, Evangelical, Calvinism, Arminianism, Catholic, Protestant. Authors with stamps of approval, pastors that pass muster, churches deemed orthodox, conservative, Biblical,godly…or not. Interpretations, translations from the original, concordances. Stances, positions, posturing. Sifting, sifting, sifting. Everyone so sure.
And I am sure too.
Certain of the Cross and Your saving Grace. Unwavering about Your Sovereignty. Confident of Your sacrificial love that saved me, a sinner.
But the rest, Lord, the secondary issues? I confess it in a wavering whisper:
I don’t know...
I am sure of You… but theology? All the Details of Doctrine in which I so easily find myself entangled?...
I want a clear understanding of You. And, seeing as everyone apparently has, intentionally or by default, a theology, is mine simply bad and muddled? I pray it is not so.
I don’t know about…well, You know all the things I don’t know about. And You know how everyone else seems so entirely certain, with flocks of disciples nodding in agreement, buoyed by the loud voices of assurance and confidence.
But what of humble voices?
Unassuming voices that can only whisper, “I do not know for certain, but I do know One who does know. For certain.” Perhaps there are less ears and hearts attuned to tentative voices. Little matter. It's about meekly following the One who is all-knowing. "And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." ~Micah 6:8
...I am like a child tentative about so much… but so sure of You.

Oh, if more of us would simply take time to think about the "other" as beloved of God. Oh, if more of us were willing to admit that we don't know, that we aren't sure. Oh, if more of us were willing to extend the grace to be unsure to other pilgrims on the way. Oh, oh, oh...
Thank you, Molly and Ann, for such amazingly heartfelt, transparent and inspiring confessions of understanding. You have reassured this grieving heart.


Anonymous said...

April, It struck me as I re-read Molly 's words posted here, not only does Father know what is most needed for our Brother/Sister in Christ, so too for US! Therefore, being called to be silent may or may not be for the "other" Christian. :/

Dawn C :@

April said...

Yeah, excellent point, Dawn. I guess I just lament that there has to be so much anger directed toward our fellow believers, especially when it is disguised in self-righteousness or righteous disappointment (*realizing I'm painting myself into a corner here...*)

April said...

I've been thinking about my comment and realizing I should have said, I was building myself into a glass corner! How easy it is to throw stones. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

April, I think it's especially easy to do when we lose sight of the very few things that are non-negotiable as Believers. (And I DO believe there are a few) We each have our own issues of passion (OH PLEASE GOD, let us have passion. MUCH better to be passionate - even if it means being challenged deeply and painfully!!) and those areas become disguised as "doctrine." (Do I sound like I know what I'm talking about?? I should, the Lord is BEATING me re: this very issue.) I believe the smell that is filling my nose could well be my own flesh being burned off! : /
D :@