Updated: Nov 13, 2021
I read an article yesterday that has me preoccupied. It is titled, “The Evangelical Church Is Breaking Apart.” Among other things, the author suggests that the fusion of modern, western politics with Christian thought has driven a wedge between Christians. Many churches are experiencing division from within that can only be identified as a growing right-wing/left-wing fracture. Some have even shut their doors. While I do not agree with everything in the article, I do see this wedge and I have been aware of its presence for a while now.
What do you do when standing up for one good thing causes a different bad thing to occur? Pretend that eating red candies was morally bad. What would you do if you saw someone eating red candies? You might ignore it. “It’s just one person who has simply come off the rails,” you say. But what if tens of thousands were eating them? What if a third of your church was eating them? What if there was a concerted effort to change the way the world thought about red candies, and instead of seeing the practice as bad, people started to say, “It’s not bad, and if you say it is, you are spreading hatred and bigotry?” Should you stand up for what is right? Should you gather together with others who felt the way you do and stand up for what is right?
The answer I have defaulted to over the years has been “yes.” But today, I find myself at a crossroads. I realize that to stand up for what is right might lead to division. Maybe that’s to be expected; it is understandable that a group of people who view the world one way will find themselves at odds with another group who see the world differently. In other words, until unbelievers choose Christianity, they will always be at odds with the Church. Let them rail against us, if they choose. We have no quarrel with them.
But Christians are called to unity with each other. That is not to say that they should all think the same or even behave the same. Our unity should be built on our diversity. But when a situation comes along that highlights our differences, we are called to step up and commit ourselves to oneness with each other. Maintaining relationship is the priority.
But, what if some Christians believe that eating red candies is bad, and other Christians believe that eating red candies is okay? What if they start fighting with each other about it? (Hopefully, most of you realize I am no longer talking about red candies.) The Bible says that we are free to eat whatever food we like (Romans 14:20), but earlier, in verse 3, it says:
“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.”
This verse is not limited to simply food. For the sake of unity, I should not judge or treat anyone with contempt over their position on a matter, even if I think they are wrong. The greater good is to try to maintain relationship with a fellow believer.
But that is not what is going on in the average church today. So many are facing crises of disunity and internal conflict. Pastors are resigning and leaving the faith. When it comes to members, half are championing only the righteousness of God (His judgement) and the other half only His compassion. But do not be confused; God is not divided. He is both just and compassionate.
If the church is to weather this storm, it must renew its commitment to be of one mind, one love, one spirit, and one purpose (Philippians 2:2). It cannot allow issues like mask wearing or vaccinations to split itself in half. It may never find peace with the outside world, but remaining unified within itself is its primary calling.