Monday, April 9, 2018

Caught in the Crossfire of Christian Firing Squads

In the romantic comedy You've Got Mail, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan play characters whose personal and political philosophies are diametrically opposed at nearly every point. Their differences are exemplified by the stores they each own and operate. She owns a mom and pop bookstore while he is the corporate CEO of a massive chain. Her business ends up failing because his succeeds. From a business perspective and a personal perspective they have every reason to hate each other. But the two eventually strike up a friendship and then fall in love.

I have often wondered why Christians have such a hard time doing the same thing. I grew up in an "Independent, King James only, Bible believing, New Testament Baptist Church" and then went to college and seminary in what is considered, among Southern Baptists at least, as one of those "liberal" schools which happened to have a lot of "conservative" students as well. Much more often than I wanted, I wound up in the crossfire of Christians on both sides attacking each other. They would argue over theology. They would argue over politics. And if it went on long enough, the "debates" would digress to people calling each other names and questioning the faith of the other group. Most of the time there was evidence to support both groups' opinions, both in the political realm and from scripture, but neither side wanted to give the other an inch. At times, it almost seemed like they hated each other.

In Mark chapter 3, we are given an example of two disciples who could easily have fallen into a similar situation. Jesus went up on a mountain and called to him those men who would eventually become the apostles. In verse 19, two of the men listed are Matthew, the tax-collector, and a man known as Simon the Zealot. Matthew was a man who not only accepted Rome's rule over Israel but had chosen to make his living by helping them to enforce their rule. Simon, as a member of the Zealot party, was vehemently opposed to Roman rule and had committed his life to removing Rome from its position over his homeland, even if it required violence.

According to the customs of the day, these men would probably have hated each other. But we are never given any indication that they were at each other's throats. I'm sure there would have naturally been some initial distrust and probably even some debates along the way. But these men followed Jesus together and, together, they helped turn the world upside down. So what made them different than us? My guess is that they allowed their mutual devotion to Jesus to override their differences.

We don't have to agree with every political and theological stance that another believer takes. But we do need to allow for the fact that Jesus calls people from every walk of life and from every political ideology. We need to remember that everybody's opinions are going to be a little different until Jesus sets all of us straight in the end. We must be willing to allow our mutual devotion to Jesus to be stronger than our political differences and trust that Jesus will eventually straighten out our theological differences if we are all following Him.

Jesus said people would know we were his disciples because of how we love each other. Are we really loving each other or are we too busy fighting over our own opinions?

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