It was once a lot easier to be a Christian in community. At least it seemed that way as a kid.
I always seemed to have an instant connection or bond with even a stranger when I found out they were a Christian. We knew many of our principles, morals, and ethics were similar. We knew our perspectives on the world and our role in it were very similar. It’s very possible that I was just naive and this never existed, but there was often a sense of camaraderie when I encountered another Christian rather than a hesitancy or reservation.
Not only is our culture in America changing, but so is our culture within the church. Hostility is on the rise and sides are being taken. It’s no longer about the blood of Jesus binding us together, but about what your stance is on today’s critical issues.
Both sides are yelling at each other, “Do your research” and “Don’t be blind.” We’re at a stalemate, and Christians are refusing to listen to other Christians. On some days, I too fear I’ve fallen into the hostility and tension swirling around us.
I genuinely believe most Christians on both sides of every issue are doing their best to think through each topic with a sense of spiritual maturity and biblical foundation. But it’s so easy to lose sight of the desires of people’s hearts when they’re full of rage and fear.
Over the past year and half, there have been a number of topics we’ve approached on this blog that have left Christians disagreeing with us and being outright furious with us. This has become a very normal experience for anyone wading into the waters of hot topic issues. We truly believe it’s important for these types of conversations to be had in general, but also publicly.
As you continue to have these difficult conversations publicly and privately, here are 4 common missteps that contribute to the deterioration of Christian unity.
1. Rage First, Love Later
The strategy of shoot first and ask questions later might be wise during combat. But it’s less useful when trying to engage in meaningful and healthy relationships. When it comes to the way we share our thoughts, beliefs, and conclusions on any given topic, the way we do it matters.
Each and every person, regardless of their religion, gender, ethnicity, or status is created in the image of God. They have intrinsic value and worth. Whether the person disagreeing with you is a loved one in the room with you or a stranger on the internet, you simply must engage with them as a person with great value and worth.
It shouldn’t take us hearing another person’s heart wrenching story for us to be reminded they are, in fact, human. We must walk into every public or private conversation with love.
It’s no secret that Christians are called to love the world in the same way Jesus has loved it. Everyone knows this. And yet, our love for one another is the first thing to go when we enter contentious conversations. We simply must not let our rage and passion conceal our love for other people, Christian or otherwise. When we begin name calling, accusation hurling, and being downright rude, we’ve allowed our rage to take control and love is nowhere to be found.
The most convincing verse for the ways in which Christians are living counter to the gospel is John 13:35.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Christians, we are getting this so incredibly wrong. I’m pleading with you to lead with love and not with rage. Let the world know you are a Christian by your love and not by the many other things they know us by.Whether the person disagreeing with you is a loved one in the room with you or a stranger online, you simply must engage with them as a person with great value and worth. Click To Tweet
2. Weaponizing Scripture
It has become quite the sport to burn people with scripture. I’ve seen this over and over again on public platforms. Christian versus Christian, a battle to see who can weaponize scripture the best. Maybe way too many Christians misunderstood what a sword drill was in Sunday school.
But the bible was never written to be used as a weapon to destroy your opponent. And it certainly was never meant to be used as a dagger against a fellow Christian. Yet this is exactly what often happens when Christians engage in controversial conversations. It becomes a battle of who can misuse and weaponize the word of God with the most precision.
I get the sense that certain people spend far more time mining through scripture to win arguments and hurl deathblows at others than they do allowing it to transform their minds, hearts, and souls.
We must be people who sit under the authority of scripture. Oftentimes, that means choosing the stance that’s less beneficial to you for the sake of others.It has become quite the sport to burn people with scripture. Christian versus Christian, a battle to see who can weaponize scripture the best. Click To Tweet
3. Rapid Fire Your “Facts” Without Making Space To Listen
Many Christians engage in controversial conversations the same way I played Call of Duty as a kid. If you’re not familiar with the video game, you play as a soldier dropped in the middle of a war. My strategy was to run into a room, unload my weapon, and then quickly hide behind any solid object I could find.
As ridiculous as this strategy sounds, it’s the tactic many of us take when sharing our view on a difficult subject.
Whether it be vaccinations, masks, CRT, or even immigration, we tend to unload all of our facts on the other person, and then essentially take cover behind our snarky or dismissive comments to their counterpoints. We don’t actually want to stop and listen. Our hope is to simply convince the other person that viewpoint is the most biblical, logical, and ethical stance.
There are so many problems with this approach. When we come with our preloaded facts and reasons why their facts are not facts at all (only ours are), we don’t allow room for a conversation.
This has happened to me on a number of occasions. I will be bombarded with a list of reasons someone is for masks or against the vaccination. And as soon as I try to respond, the person tells me “That’s not true” or “You don’t have your facts right.” There’s absolutely nothing I can say to this type of person, because they aren’t actually looking for a conversation.
We have to be on guard against this tendency in our lives. In order to have the words of James ring true in our lives, we have to be intentional about listening.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
It’s harder to become angry with someone when we take the time to listen to them.
And it’s not only their words we need to listen to, but also their heart. That’s why these conversations enrage so many of us. They are tapping into something deeper within us. They are bringing to the surface our fears, anxieties, and lack of control.
As much as we say it’s all about facts and research, for many of these tension filled conversations, it’s about something far deeper. We can only truly see someone when we put down our facts-filled weapon and actually listen.It's harder to become angry with someone when we take the time to listen to them. Click To Tweet
4. Shouting Each Other Down With “Let’s Just Preach Jesus.”
When it comes to these controversial topics, some respond with a call to “just share the gospel,” even while people are wrestling with their thoughts on vaccinations, masks, racial injustice, immigration, and the many other contentious issues we’re facing today. And it seems very holy and spiritually mature.
I’ve heard people say “just preach the gospel” in various forms and settings, and it makes me pause. I’ve wondered whether or not this was the route Christians should be taking. Essentially, this strategy is calling for Christians to remain silent, not speak up, and to only talk about Jesus and nothing else.
I wholeheartedly agree that we must not lose the forest for the trees as we engage in the controversial situations of our time. We must be diligent to keep Jesus at the center. After all, it should be him who is guiding the way we view any given topic in the first place. But that doesn’t mean that we should pretend to ignore these important and pressing issues.
I understand that this is so much easier said than done. We are actually seeing how difficult this can be, as even Christians are divided in many areas. But we can’t use Jesus as a reason to pretend the issues around us don’t exist. We can’t divorce Jesus from the conversation all together. If we truly believe Jesus is the Sovereign King who reigns in our lives, then he must be part of these conversations as difficult as they may be.
Jesus never shied away from the ugly, complex, and controversial aspects of humanity. He stepped into them. Jesus knows the world is broken, and he laid down his life to save it. But he hasn’t called us to disengage from the world, to be silent, and uninvolved until he returns. No. Jesus cares about our souls, but he also cares about how we live and the ways in which we reflect him to the world.
This means we care about the matters that bring suffering and pain. Rather than suggesting Jesus wouldn’t care about these things and neither should we, we should engage with the strength and light of Jesus in hand.We can't use Jesus as a reason to pretend the issues around us don't exist. Click To Tweet
MORE RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT
If you enjoyed this article, these books might be useful resources to you.
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- Until Unity by Francis Chan
- Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is at Its Worst by Ed Stetzer