The Problem Inside All of Us

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I was reading the other day, as I often do, and the following quote made me stop completely. I actually couldn’t read any more for the rest of the day.

“How can we Christians claim to proclaim atoning reconciliation through the cross of Christ when we contradict it by refusing to be reconciled with one another, or to allow reconciliation through the body and blood of the Saviour to be translated into our Church divisions.” – Thomas Torrance

Read it again, if it didn’t stop you the first time.

Torrance’s point is for us to examine how we can proclaim that God reconciles us to Himself when we refuse to practice that with each other. How can we hold onto our divisions, debate and disagreements when Christ died to bring us together? How can we share the good news of reconciliation when we refuse to give up our inner Church disputes and divisions?

The easy (and preachy) thing to do would be to call out all the pastors who continue to divide over silly things. The easy thing to do would be to call out all the Christians who continue to hate one another and not forgive. The easy thing to do is to get on a soapbox and slam all of you who continue to hold onto grudges and divisions, and ignore the fact that Christ brought us together.

That would be easier, but not godly.

Because, the truth is, I struggle with holding onto bitterness and grudges sometimes. The truth is, I think my theology is obvious and right, whereas others is misguided at best and stupid at worst. The reason this quote stopped me isn’t because it highlighted the problems in the Church (although it does that); it’s that it highlighted the problems in me…

  • That I would rather divide than work through things.
  • That it’s easier to be right instead of reconciled.
  • That sometimes I love my theology, my perspective and my opinions more than other’s.

Torrance’s point reminded me that I’m part of the problem. That the church’s tendency to place personal opinions, past hurts or theological preferences above people is a problem. Jesus died to reconcile us together, and we shouldn’t contradict it by refusing to reconcile with others.

So, this post isn’t meant to point out anything wrong in anyone else, rather it’s meant to remind us that often the problem isn’t with “out there,” but “inside us.” And, that’s why I stopped reading. Because I realized I had some things to work on.

 

3 Strands of DNA ~ Heresy, Division, and Faith Expressing Itself in Love

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On Sunday we looked at the last of the strands of DNA within our church. We looked at how we here practice, “Unity in Diversity”.

And this value is one that is so needed and also so rare in our current church culture in the West. In the West we are so quick to divide, to call out “heresy”, to be angry and aggressive in person, on Facebook, in blog comment sections, and online in general.

What we looked at on Sunday is how a culture of division, and raising “secondary” issues to “ultimate” issues has taken hold. That people are quick to say, “if you don’t believe in…[insert current hot topic position] you aren’t a true Christian.”

In essence, the church is taking the easy route of dividing, and isolating – rather than loving and holding onto unity.

But this is not part of our DNA here at our church. Instead, we hold strongly to relationships over difference. Instead, we practice unity in diversity. Or as St. Augustine reportedly said, “Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things”.

We then explored not only how this is part of our DNA, but part of the calling of God found in many places but especially Galatians 5.

In Galatians 5 we read of how Paul is furious with how some in the church in Galatia are raising secondary issues (circumcision) to being a primary issue. In essence, they were taking a non-essential and saying it was an essential. And Paul has some brutally strong language for those who confuse those categories (just go read verse 12…wow!). And Paul warns the church that one divisive person, one angry person, one person who confuses the categories of essential and non-essential can infect an entire church. They can pollute it, damage it, and harm its witness.

And I think that’s the trend we see around us in the wider church culture. But the point for us and our church is to not ever let that drift happen here. Our focus is to continue  to practicing unity in diversity. Or as Paul says to do what is most important, “Faith expressing itself in love”

And that’s where we ended. I challenged us to just put that verse into practice. That is how we keep the main the thing “the main thing”, by ensuring that we express our faith in love. So I challenge everyone to love someone difficult this week. To actually move away from dogma, discussions, and debates to praxis – to faith expressing itself in love.

Because here is the truth, it’s much harder to separate from someone you are actively seeking to love. So put love into practice today.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaHold onto unity in diversity.

Teaching Points:

  • If you don’t talk about it, you won’t live it
  • Within Christianity as a whole in the West we are not all that generous towards one another or gracious.
  • We are shrinking what we believe orthodoxy is, to the beliefs we personally hold.
  • Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things
  • We are committed to one another even if we disagree.
  • Hold onto unity in diversity
  • You come together because of your shared belief in Jesus

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What would you say are some of our core values? Have you noticed the trend towards dividing and debating in Christianity? Have you ever fallen into it? Why do you think it’s happening? Do you think that “holding onto unity in diversity” is important? How come? Who can you love this week? What can you practically do?

Challenge for the Week: Love someone you disagree with this week

3 Strands of DNA

diversity-1-1184126-1598x1024On Sunday we are looking at another value we have here at church. We are looking at how we hold to unity in diversity. And at first glance that statement looks well…innocuous. Like who cares?

But I would say this: that value is one of the most counter-cultural values today.

That value is one of the most needed values today.

That value is one that is most missing in our current Evangelical Christian sub-culture. We are quick to divide. Quick to call out people. We are quick to call our “heresy”

But in the process we have made an idol out of our own theological perfection. In doing this we have not only moved into dangerous territory, but unbiblical territory. And yes, I see the irony of saying “heresy hunters” are heretical…but my point is actually larger than calling out “heresy hunters”.

My point is that in Evangelical and Western Christianity we have forgotten how to hold onto unity in the midst of difference. We haven’t practiced well what the Bible calls us to be: one in love.

So on Sunday we are going to unpack this value, and most importantly, unpack how to practice it.