There’s something I’ve noticed about the way Christians argue. While everyone to some degrees argues to prove that they’re right, the most successful in the arenas of (more or less) intellectual battle are the ones that argue with a specific goal in mind; a thesis that defines their debates regardless of the topic.
I’ve seen lots of theses in my years immersed in Christian Culture. Some argue so that others will see the sovereignty of God. Some argue in favor of a family focused faith. Some argue on behalf of “the least of these.” Some theme everything they do toward showing the beauty of God. Those last people are a personal favorite of mine.
While there are most likely an infinite number of themes your arguments could have, the most successful of debaters usually settle on one broad-ish theme. Think back to people you’ve argued with over and over again and see if you can pick up on theirs. Think back again and try to identify yours. It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?
Here’s the deal. I think I’ve probably had a few different themes through the years. I’m ADD like crazy. Thinking about it recently though, I think I’ve decided what I want my thesis to be. I’m not saying this is currently indicative of the way I argue or debate, I’m just saying that I want this idea to permeate my involvement in the Christian Debate Arena.
Here it is: There are sincere, passionate followers of Jesus that disagree with you.
Did you miss it? Here it is again.
There are sincere, passionate followers of Jesus that disagree with you.
I don’t care what we’re arguing about. If we’re in the realm of Christianity and arguing a belief, conviction, or ethical position there are people out there striving their hardest to follow Jesus that disagree with you as strongly as you disagree with them. Odds are there are entire denominations with theologians, bible colleges, pastors, and congregations whose statements of faith put in black and white how much they think you’re wrong. I’ll bet they even have historic documents to help prove that what they believe is actually orthodox while what you believe is not; just like you do.
I find it mind boggling that this isn’t obvious to people. Yet so often we’re ready to decry anybody who disagrees with us as a person who obviously doesn’t know jack about the bible and doesn’t care about following Jesus. They just want a get out of hell free card or some such, right? They don’t seriously want to be a Christian; they just want their current lifestyle to be endorsed by the religion they practice. If they really cared about the truth of God and His Word they would change and be more like you.
Yep, that’s what “they” say about you, too. Welcome to the diversity that we call the Family of God.
I think our arguments and co-existence would both see a drastic improvement in quality if we could grasp this concept. Sadly, we don’t, and that’s why I want to make this central to my discussions.
Now here’s the funny part. I’ve been thinking this for a couple of months now, very intensely and purposefully for the last couple weeks, and then World Vision announced the change in their hiring policy.
Suddenly I’m topical.
I don’t want to rehash the crazy arguments about homosexuality and its pros and cons, but I do want to make one very important point.
Can you guess what it is?
You got it. People disagree with you.
This statement is critical to the uproar around World Vision’s policy change. Why? Because the people that are pulling their support for children around the world because of this don’t get that. No, they don’t. Even if they “know” it, they don’t understand it. Let me explain.
I don’t blame anyone for choosing not to support or even pulling their support from an organization that is doing things you believe are wrong. Please, act according to your own conscience, especially with where you use your money. I don’t want to infringe on that. I do want to call people on the carpet for a lack of understanding what the Body of Christ is.
Here’s the deal. According to your own logic, by supporting a child through World Vision you have, for however long you’ve been sponsoring that child, been saying that you’re cool with what the organization is doing. This is a commendable position. I have no issues yet. Then, by your same logic, by pulling your support of that child you are making the statement that you no longer agree with what World Vision is doing and thus refuse to support them in any way, including helping them help people. Ok; I’m still with you. If one of the ministries I give to suddenly started doing something I find morally problematic I would pull support too. I dig it.
But you have a problem. What did World Vision do?
It’s important to answer this question accurately. On it hinges your choice to not support them. You’re saying that whatever action it was that they involved themselves in is morally wrong. It’s a big statement. So what’s the answer?
All that World Vision did was change a hiring policy to better reflect a belief they already held; that differences in how we define sin does not exclude us from being in right relationship with God. To put it another way, they acknowledged that homosexuality has joined the ranks of things like divorce and remarriage in their place of debate amongst sincere Christians. They have a long standing policy of choosing not to judge people on things that are largely and honestly debated by the American Church as long as that person is living within the guidelines of local law and their local church. All they did was recognize that there is another issue that’s like that in American Christian Culture.
So here’s what you’re saying by pulling your support from World Vision. You’re saying that it’s wrong to acknowledge that the church is divided on moral issues. Specifically, you may be saying it’s wrong to say that the church is divided on the issue of homosexuality. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you’re thinking more specifically like that.
Guess what, though? You still have a problem.
The problem is you’re blind. Whether by design or uncanny accident, you’ve managed not to realize that the Church IS divided on this issue. If you want to claim that nobody who is accepting of homosexual marriage is also trying to follow Christ, you need to get out more my friend. If you want to hold to the idea that believing homosexual marriage isn’t a sin automatically makes you not a Christian…you have bigger problems. Most obviously is the trouble you’re going to have defending the idea that God’s grace covers all the things you could wrong about but not this one thing other people could be wrong about.
If you don’t want to make either of those statements, then you need to rethink pulling your support from World Vision.
Now, I get it. Reasonable people will disagree with me. (That is my thesis, isn’t it?) Maybe you define what World Vision “did” differently than I do. Maybe you really do believe that God’s grace doesn’t cover certain beliefs or errors. I think you’re very wrong about the first one. I shudder to think that you could get that second idea from a faith based in the person of Jesus Christ. Yet, I don’t doubt your sincerity. Neither do I have the audacity to claim that you’re not part of this whacky thing we call the Family of God.
Do the world a favor though, literally, and re-think pulling your support from World Vision. You’re not actually making a statement about what is and isn’t sin. You’re making a statement about how narrow the Body of Christ is and passing judgment on the heart attitudes of millions of people who are willing to claim that you’re their brother or sister in Christ.
If you’re good with that, go in peace and do your thing. I’m sorry.
If you’re not cool with that…