I preached 2 Timothy 2:14-19 on Sunday and got interesting responses. The one most repeated was that people find it easy to believe truth but hard to confront error. One person said: "I am worried if I do that it will just be causing dissensions." Others said "if I saw an error I [might] tell the pastor, but its his job not mine."
This doesn't surprise me (although it does depress me!) Our culture and the new postmodern tolerance teaches that to question someone's views is tantamount to an assault on their human rights. To suggest that I am right and they are wrong (especially on God's authority) sounds like egomania at best to many. But to not understand how to stand for truth with love, generosity and graciousness in a church is to allow relativism to nestle at the heart of God's community. This is to resisted to the last drop of blood!
Here are a few of my pointers on how to differ with others:
- Be gracious, kind and friendly. Let there be no shred of evidence to support the idea that you are differing because you are nasty
- Root everything in the Bible. It takes the heat off you. Never say "I think" when you should say "the Bible teaches" (as long as it does)
- Differentiate secondary things from primary ones and don't go to the stake over secondary ones. And don't raise them to the level of primary ones
- With our friends who disagree with us be clear about
- areas in which we can work together wholeheartedly
- areas that we both know are outside the bounds of working together, on our current understanding of our differences
- areas that both of us think are grey in which we will consider compromises together
If we don't make this kind of distinction we end up with either making light of all differences and not standing for truth or making every point of disagreement a hill to die on, regardless of how insignificant.
My fear of the view that says "I believe this but I won't challenge the opposite (with grace and kindness)" is that it shows that Christians have drunk deeply of the spirit of the age. Also that some are unable to distinguish between right/wrong and person I like/person I don't like. Or even that some find it hard to discern that if something is right then the opposite may well be not right. Whence the law of the excluded middle? Is there widespread incipient relativism with a Christian gloss in apparently evangelical churches?
It is not standing for truth that causes dissensions (provided that so standing is done with kindness). Not standing for it is what brings plural and incompatible views of truth and of God from outside the scriptures. And in that lies the root of dissension.
We need to be full of truth. And of grace. How important it is to remember that the Bible teaches that the road to maturity is speaking the truth in love:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph 4:15)