Sunday, 12 April 2015

Agree to Disagree (but Live in Peace Anyways)

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.” (1 Peter 2: 11-12; NIV)

Recently a friend posted a comment on Facebook that got me thinking and which, as often happens, raised several other questions for me. He said,

“I can’t expect the rest of the world to obey God
when Christians won’t.”

Now I’m not sure what you think about that statement, but I think I understand where he’s coming from, and to a point, I agree. Here are a few random thoughts and musings that went through my head after reading that.

I got to thinking about our Christian values, ethics and doctrines. Most of us hold dearly to them; they are pretty much “non-negotiable.” They define us and they define our faith and understanding of who God is and what He expects of us (or doesn’t expect of us). We’re good with them, and if we have a problem with them, it is only in that we cannot understand why there are other Christians who apparently cannot see these things the way we do.

The fact that on many issues even Christians are not united, such as the recent hoopla over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and the alleged discrimination that it brings to the LGBT community, brings us back to my friend’s post. When it comes to a specific theological position or worldview, regardless which side of the fence we’re on, we’re quite possibly going to see our neighbors on the other side of the fence as not obeying God. After all, how can they be if God obviously sees the situation the way I do? ... I’m being facetious. (For more on the Religious Freedom Restoration Actsee my earlier blog post)

All this begged another couple random questions. How “Christian” are those values, ethics and doctrines that we’ve embraced anyways? Secondly, how do we reconcile the fact that some of our brothers and sisters clearly do not hold to them like we do? Let’s pause for a moment and think of the implications in those loaded questions.

Either they’re wrong or (heaven forbid) we’re wrong … or one of us isn’t actually a real Christian (a sort of wolf in sheep’s clothing) … or God was mistaken … or those “Christian” values, ethics and doctrines are actually “pseudo-Christian” … or God changed His mind. But which one is right? Which ones are wrong? Does one have to be right or wrong? In and of themselves, none of the options are particularly comfortable. Furthermore, the whole question hinges on a judgment call that leaves an equally bad taste in most of our mouths. Some will no doubt ask, shouldn’t I be more focused on the plank in my own eye rather than the speck in my neighbor’s eye (Matthew 7:3)? Maybe I should.

There is another equally disturbing question that I found myself musing upon. My friend’s allegation is that Christians do not obey God. Obviously that’s somewhat of an unfair generalization, and I’m sure he meant it somewhat “tongue ‘n cheek,” but let’s work with it for a second. If that were true, and building on everything we’ve already said thus far, could it be that some of us have developed a rather subjective view of what it means to be a Christian? I’ve often wondered about that. Though I really don’t want to go there, I think the question logically follows. If that were not true, then my friend is perhaps right, and some of us are deliberately being disobedient to God. Is the word of God … subjective?

One final question the comes out of my friend’s post, and one which I’ve stewed on a number of times before, is this: Do Christians really have the right to expect the secular world to live according to Christian values, ethics and doctrines? It seems to me that this question becomes even more profound when we recognize that even within the church we cannot see eye-to-eye on what is truly non-negotiable in the Christian faith. The famous “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind as a non-negotiable, but even there, many of us seem to have added a list of exceptions to the rule of “love one another.”

While I do not believe that we Christians should expect non-believers to embrace and live their lives according to our values, neither do I believe that the non-Christian world should expect me to embrace its worldview. We’ve all heard people say, “Don’t push your religion down my throat,” and yet the irony is that the world does that to the Christian too, expecting us to kneel down and “worship” its values, even though they often contradict ours. Obviously we all still have a lot to learn about how to treat one another on this rock called Earth.

I don’t want to be militant about these things. I do want to “make every effort to live in peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14), keeping in mind that Jesus said I “do not belong to the world” (John 15:19). Once I came to grips with that, I also began to understand a little better Peter’s admonition that, “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17). As such, I have stopped concerning myself with how the other guy chooses to live his or her life, knowing that they too will one day have to give an account to God, regardless whether or not they believe in Him today.

But then again, I suppose that not everyone believes that either, and that’s okay. Maybe the old adage of "Agree to Disagree" is enough. Maybe we don't need to fully understand the mind of God on these things. Maybe the old children's hymn is enough,
"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
Maybe if Christians spent a little more time focussing on that, it would be enough to live in peace with one another, despite our disagreements and misunderstandings. Maybe that's the one Christian value, ethic and doctrine that really matters. Maybe ...

Peace & Blessings.

Photo Credit: Philip Bitnar, Flickr Creative Commons

2 comments:

  1. When there is so much bullying, abuse and empire building in the 'church', I think your friend's comment is an entirely appropriate one :(

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  2. I think that we are dealing with something spiritually devastating in the institutional church. Those who are not able to discern the word of God correctly. We see clearly in the scripture that you quote in this post from I Peter that we need to abstain from sinful desires. That the Christian doesn't 'fit' well in this world. That we are aliens and strangers in it. This is the experience of few in the Christian community. The church may be filled with people but with 'what' and with 'who'?

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