The Church: United or Uniform?
Have you noticed the many opportunities we have to disagree with each other? We can disagree over doctrinal issues, we can disagree over politics, we can disagree over the government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak. We can disagree with the Elders’ response to the government’s response. All of these issues are real, and all of them have both moral and practical (that is financial) implications.
The problem is that disagreeing, if we’re not very careful, can degenerate into disliking, then judging and, ultimately, hating the person we disagree with. We seem to have forgotten that there’s a difference between “objectives” and “tactics.”
As an example; two Christians can both agree that life is sacred and abortion is therefore wrong. However, the tactics they adopt in support of that objective may differ wildly. One may believe that voting for the right President is the only reasonable response… regardless of any other aspects of that President’s agenda or character (and wrongly assume that this is all that’s required of them). At the same time, the other Christian may consider the President’s views on abortion as a secondary consideration while they seek to address the causes underlying the abortion crisis. They actively work with adoption agencies, they work to provide much needed education, they seek to support unwed mothers, they provide counseling, etc.
But… we get so entrenched in our own thinking that we lose site of the objective while we’re distracted by the tactics. This can be, and has been, a serious point of contention. But it’s only one aspect of a larger issue. There are many issues where we may agree on the objective, but not on the tactics employed to achieve that objective.
The catch is this; as Christians we have a calling. That calling trumps (no pun intended) all other considerations. Everything we engage in, every objective we adopt, every tactic we employ, is secondary to that fundamental call. That call is to love: John
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”1.
The command to love expresses itself through our participation in the Great Commission as we seek to evangelize and make disciples around the world. This activity is, fundamentally, an act of love. But when we undertake these objectives in isolation from the underlying requirement to love (which is the foundational tactic) we miss the mark and fail to accomplish the objective.
But note this, loving someone does not necessarily mean agreeing with them, it doesn’t even mean liking them. We can disagree, even stridently disagree, and still love them. Love is an action word. To love is to actively seek the best for the other person. What’s more, Christian love almost always requires sacrifice. Sometimes that means giving loving correction, and sometimes it means keeping our mouth shut.
We will not get it right 100% of the time. But, we aren’t left to guess about how this love should look. The Scriptures go beyond pale definitions, and instead they show us what love is like. One example is Ephesians 5:1-2 ~
5 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.1.
5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.1.
How did Christ love us? He died for us. How should you love someone else? You should be willing to look past disagreements, to die to your own agenda, and actively seek what is best to build them up. That plays out practically with our response to wearing masks. That plays our practically with our response to those who do not want to wear a mask. It plays out practically with how we treat someone who voted differently than we did.
The unity that we’re called to practice transcends anything we may think, it transcends anything we may want. Our unity is based on something much more profound. 1 Corinthians
We are united in Christ, we do not have to be uniform in our thinking to remain united… if we’re willing to obey our Lord.