So a republican, democrat and moderate walk into a church…
At this point in our country’s climate I’m not sure that sets up a good joke.
Are we tolerant? I think we all like to think we are open minded, not being bothered by other people’s viewpoints or opinions, and in general I think that’s true. We recognize we won’t like the same movies, rave over the same restaurants, or shop at the same stores. But how about being tolerant when it comes to differing views of deeply held convictions or traditions? We will fight for prayer in our schools, but would a Christian be supportive if the valedictorian of a class wanted to pray a Hindu prayer? How tolerant are we when the “theys” in our lives invade our space? Especially our churches?
Unity does not mean uniformity.
We know this. Do we live this?
It turns out Paul had some advice regarding this for a church in Rome.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters…One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living…You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. Romans 14:1-10
I think we see the issues Paul highlights, considering one day holy and to eat meat or not, and think…okay, no big deal. But they would have been a VERY BIG DEAL for a Jewish community. We are talking about Sabbath and purity codes. This is about rules they have lived by their entire life, things they have grown up knowing and practicing. So to suggest that these are “disputable matters” is essentially insulting.
What could someone say to you politically, socially, ethically that would get you all fired up? Who are the people, who’s personal convictions, or lack thereof, drive you crazy and you can’t fathom doing life with people that view the world that way?
Here is part of what we are trying to do…create space for people to explore the claims of Christ, as they deeply discuss and passionately engage with their own convictions, sitting right next to someone that may not think like them. We want PETA advocates next to a taxidermist. We want a card carrying member of the NRA doing life with someone that last month protested for massive gun right restrictions. Why? Because we believe we are sharpened and we grow when we do life with people that don’t think like us.
Pastor John says all the time, “The proverb says, ‘as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ And when iron sharpens iron, sparks fly. Otherwise it would be ‘as feather sharpens feather’.”
Who in your life makes your “sparks fly”? What about befriending them? What about intentionally placing yourself in a position to not only hear their views but to respect them as one of God’s children?
If your ideals are truth, you can stand. You have nothing to lose by sharing your life with someone radically different than you. But you could gain something, even if only the sharpening of your previous concepts.
In church planting culture you hear, “We are an Acts church.” Committed to the scene described at the end of Acts chapter 2. Which is a beautiful and an essential part of being a Christian community.
But we also like to think that we are a Romans 14 church; allowing unity without uniformity, allowing passionate but differing convictions to sit side by side. So next time that you begin to post a rant on that person’s social media feed, what if you first tried to connect with them in real life, like actually get to know them, maybe take them to lunch, or coffee? What would our churches look like if we did that first? Seeking to understand before trying to be understood as we allow the Holy Spirit to do the work of conviction.