Sticks and Stones – Disagreeing with Grace

What do Kanye West, Beth Moore, and John MacArthur have in common? They are all believers, and their recent actions have sparked a LOT of controversy in the Western Christian world over the last few weeks, and put a bright spotlight on a major issue facing the Church today…the ability to disagree with grace.

You may not believe this, but I don’t agree with every Christian about every topic to come across the Church table. An even bigger shock is that every Christian doesn’t agree with me about every topic to come across the Church table. I mean they should…because I’m usually right…but that’s beside the point (totally joking!).

The hard truth of the matter is this…

…the Church body WILL find things that we DON’T agree on.

But how we disagree with one another will determine a great deal of things…largely how the world will view the Church.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

This is, unfortunately, a lie. Words do hurt.

For us as humans, our words can cut deep into hearts, and leave massive wounds that can take a lifetime to get over.

For the Church, our words can ruin our testimony and cast a dark shadow over the Church that can potentially push people away from the faith and God altogether.

Our words matter.

As was mentioned in one of our last articles/podcasts regarding Kanye West, John MacArthur, and Beth Moore…the Church struggles with the concept of being able to gracefully disagree.

This may just be a human problem and not just a Church problem…but according to the Bible, as the Church (as believers) we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish things that as mere humans we would not have been able to accomplish previously.

And yes…I believe this includes unity despite our differences and disagreements.

I was actually told by an individual, specifically about this topic of unity, that unity is a pipe dream, and that it’s unrealistic to believe that the Church could ever be unified despite our differences and disagreements.

I disagree. A lot.

I don’t look down on this brother for holding this perspective. I realize that for many the idea that unity can be achieved with the church body does feel like a pipe dream. It is difficult to see how people from all walks of life, with varying perspectives, varying theological views, varying cultural backgrounds, and so on…can find unity despite all of those things.

But I believe it is possible.

I believe it is possible because Jesus believed it was possible.

I believe it is possible because Paul believed it was possible.

I believe it is possible because, thank the Lord (quite literally), unity doesn’t depend on our ability to unify but fully relies on the Holy Spirit to bind our hearts together.

When we stop trying to force unity around ideas, political views, cultural views, and whatever else we try to unify one another around…and instead focus on what Paul said would unify us (one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God – Ephesians 4:4-6), I think we will find we have much more in common than we initially suspected and would be able to find that common ground needed to unify the body.

The things that stand in the way of this, I firmly believe, were highlighted in the responses I saw concerning Kanye West and concerning Beth Moore and John MacArthur.

And what was highlighted in these events?

I believe what was put on display for the entire Western Hemisphere to see was our quickness to call someone else a heretic, a goat, a false prophet, etc. when we may disagree on something that isn’t a core of the faith.

When we begin to major on the minors, this is when we lose the ability to unify with one another.

The next big issue is…who gets to determine what the major and minor things are that we ought to focus on?

For one guy it may be a major ordeal that women are in the ministry, and for another it may be a minor issue. One treats it like it’s faith ending, the other treats it like it holds no weight at all.

What do we do when this happens? How do we come back to the point of unification?

I think we look back to Ephesians 4:4-6 and circle around those things:

There is ONE body and ONE Spirit–just as you were called to the ONE hope that belongs to your call–ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Let’s break this down…

  1. One Body – there is only ONE church. Denominations do not = a church. They are simply segments of the ONE church in to smaller groups that are like minded in specific areas. What each segment believes (in general) is minor, that we are all part of the same global Church body is major.
  2. One Spirit – This is the Holy Spirit. Some believe he empowers us to do supernatural things. Others believe he empowers to simply become believers and is the indwelling Spirit doing all the work inside of us. Either way, we ALL believe there is only ONE Holy Spirit. How exactly he works is minor. That he exists at all is a major.
  3. One Hope – There is one Jesus who saved us, and one heaven for which we are bound. Jesus is returning for us. How and when is minor, that he is returning at all is major.
  4. One Lord – This is Jesus Christ. Period. Who is Lord is the entire crux of the gospel. Making anyone or anything else Lord is a major ordeal. Accenting or focusing on one or more of the characteristics of Jesus as a person is minor, yet we often point out one characteristic as though it is the only aspect of his character worth mentioning (e.g. him flipping tables or him being full of grace toward another person).
  5. One Faith – There is only one way to access the Father and that is through Jesus. Any other way (according to Jesus) is wrong. This is clearly a major point.
  6. One Baptism – We all ought to be baptized as a sign of our faith, and covenant with Christ. This is a major point. How one is baptized (immersion or sprinkling) is minor.
  7. One God – Despite what other religions may teach, there is only one God. Period. This is a major point. And as mentioned above, there is only one way to this God and that is through Jesus Christ. Period. Any suggestion otherwise violates a major point of Christianity. This is not a minor issue.

It is these 7 things that Paul says we can ALL unify around. Paul is suggesting that it is these 7 things that are core to the faith.

As an aside…know what else is fascinating that I just noticed here?

Paul cited 7 things that we can all unify around…7 in the bible is the number for completeness.

That said, notice in this list how much is NOT here, and what IS here. It is what IS here that I believe Paul is saying is what matters most, and what will bring unity to the Church body. The rest is certainly important, but debatable things…

…things like eschatology…bible versions…women in ministry…how one is baptized…musical preferences…where the church meets…how to baptize…and so much more.

And yet…the things I just listed off (which are merely a sampling) tend to get elevated to the status of major things rather than minor things.

Is it any wonder that we struggle to find unity when we are constantly fighting over the non-essentials?

To bring it full circle…is unity possible? Yes!

But it is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, and only if we stop making minor issues major issues and find common ground on the essentials of the faith.

It is only then will we be able to approach our disagreements with grace.

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