This post is one piece of a community creation in the form of a synchroblog. This month, the Synchroblog will be centered on Bridging the Divides and ideas and perspectives that different bloggers might have on ways to heal these divisions in the church.
A friend posted an issue on Facebook that is contentious in church and culture. Comments ensued. Many “sides” were represented, but one person jumped in with a strong “You are lying. That is against Jesus. How dare you call yourself a minister?” sort of message. It’s here that one of two things usually happens in a Facebook discussion:
- The conversation devolves into hopeless name calling and hair pulling.
- The “offender” is blocked and comments are deleted.
The first option is occasionally fun but rarely helpful. Sometimes, the second in unfortunately necessary. But the rare third option showed up in this particular thread. The Bible Defender never backed down from his message or rhetoric and others in the thread called him on both. At times, comments were posting faster than Facebook could refresh. People holding each primary position spoke their minds without name calling or ad hominem accusations. Eventually, the conversation slowed, everyone took deep breaths, and we walked away uninjured.
In that moment, the Defender took one last, little, parting shot: “We are the Body of Christ, the Church Universal. We’ll be around here until the end of all things. I pray you’ll give up your false jesus, and follow the true Jesus of the Bible.” Ouch, right? So another member replied with the following (slightly edited to remove identifying features):
And I, Defender, am thankful you have come to know Jesus and pray you continue in a deep relationship where you are transformed by the renewing of your heart day by day further into a person who lives as Christ.
In the context of bridging the divides, that prayer is stronger than I thought at first read, especially if it is prayed with the other person and not at. When I pray that prayer for the other person, other church, other denomination, other school of theology, I am not praying for any particular outward change in the person. How often, when I tell someone they should be more like Jesus, am I really telling them they should be more like me? If we are in disagreement and I lob a “you need to be more Jesus like,” that usually means “If you saw my side and believed and practiced my way and were more like me in all ways, you would be more like Jesus.”
The above prayer says, “I believe you are a follower of Jesus – I am not going to question that in any way – and because you are a follower of Jesus, I am going to ask that Jesus continue to do for you what he offers for all: to make you more like him in every way.” Shouldn’t that be exactly what I want for all people, but especially for the person I am so “worried” about in the moment? If I pray for godly renewal and God does just that, shouldn’t I trust God knows what God is doing, even if that person still doesn’t believe and behave according to my beliefs? Further, it is a prayer that reorients me. Just why do I feel the need to play bodyguard to God and Truth, anyway? If God and Truth are eternal absolutes, doesn’t that mean they’re going to get along just fine without me? It turns me back to God, as well, abdicating my position as judge, allowing me to let go of responsibilities that were never mine.
What can I do to help bridge the divides in church and culture? I start by praying for the best for those I disagree with.
Here’s the list of other bloggers contributing posts related to healing the divides this month:
- The Virtual Abbess – Abi and April’s Synchroblog – Bridging the Divides
- Caris Adel - Emotional Pacifism: Laying Down My Weapons
- Ty Grigg – Speak Truth
- Jon Huckins – Gay Marriage, World Vision, and a Unified Church?
- Mark Votava – Faith Presence in the Parish
- Mary at Lifeinthedport – let us meet in the borderlands
- Michael Donahoe – Healing Divisions in the Body of Christ
- Jeremy Myers – Unity vs. Uniformity in the Church
- Juliet at Still Learning – A Catholics Love Letter to Evangelical Women
- Dago at Scripture Insights – Jesus the Divider
- Glenn Hager – The Lowest Common Denominator
- Sarah Quezada - Standing on Church Bridges
- Doug Webster – Truth Is Not a Process, Belief Is
- Michelle Van Loon – Bridging the Divide
- Happy at Simple Felicity – are we there yet?
- Travis Klassen – The Church: Coming, Going, or Being
- Bec Cranford - Biblical Interpretation and Inerrancy: Moving beyond myopia to a grander vision of unity
- Teresa Pasquale – Bridging the Divide: Translating Between Dialects, Culture Contexts, and Heart Stirring
- Miguel Labrador – I might be willing to reconsider church hierarchies, if…
- Paul Meier – Healing the Divides Begins Within
- Liz Dyer – You Can’t Get There From Here
- K.W. Leslie – Humility
- Kathy Escobar – 10 ways we can build bridges instead of bomb them
- Loveday Anyim – The “non-Gospelized Rituals” of Pentacostalism
- Carly Gelsinger – “Church Shopping” at the Wrong “Mall”: A Story of Easter Sundays
- Mallory Pickering – A Splintered People
- Pastor Edwin Fedex – Tearing Down Fences and Building Sidewalks
- Jen Baros – Bridging the Divides: How to Heal
- Burning Religion – The Impossible Space Between Us
- Bronwyn Lea – When My Children Squabble