3 Strands of DNA ~ Heresy, Division, and Faith Expressing Itself in Love

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On Sunday we looked at the last of the strands of DNA within our church. We looked at how we here practice, “Unity in Diversity”.

And this value is one that is so needed and also so rare in our current church culture in the West. In the West we are so quick to divide, to call out “heresy”, to be angry and aggressive in person, on Facebook, in blog comment sections, and online in general.

What we looked at on Sunday is how a culture of division, and raising “secondary” issues to “ultimate” issues has taken hold. That people are quick to say, “if you don’t believe in…[insert current hot topic position] you aren’t a true Christian.”

In essence, the church is taking the easy route of dividing, and isolating – rather than loving and holding onto unity.

But this is not part of our DNA here at our church. Instead, we hold strongly to relationships over difference. Instead, we practice unity in diversity. Or as St. Augustine reportedly said, “Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things”.

We then explored not only how this is part of our DNA, but part of the calling of God found in many places but especially Galatians 5.

In Galatians 5 we read of how Paul is furious with how some in the church in Galatia are raising secondary issues (circumcision) to being a primary issue. In essence, they were taking a non-essential and saying it was an essential. And Paul has some brutally strong language for those who confuse those categories (just go read verse 12…wow!). And Paul warns the church that one divisive person, one angry person, one person who confuses the categories of essential and non-essential can infect an entire church. They can pollute it, damage it, and harm its witness.

And I think that’s the trend we see around us in the wider church culture. But the point for us and our church is to not ever let that drift happen here. Our focus is to continue  to practicing unity in diversity. Or as Paul says to do what is most important, “Faith expressing itself in love”

And that’s where we ended. I challenged us to just put that verse into practice. That is how we keep the main the thing “the main thing”, by ensuring that we express our faith in love. So I challenge everyone to love someone difficult this week. To actually move away from dogma, discussions, and debates to praxis – to faith expressing itself in love.

Because here is the truth, it’s much harder to separate from someone you are actively seeking to love. So put love into practice today.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaHold onto unity in diversity.

Teaching Points:

  • If you don’t talk about it, you won’t live it
  • Within Christianity as a whole in the West we are not all that generous towards one another or gracious.
  • We are shrinking what we believe orthodoxy is, to the beliefs we personally hold.
  • Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things
  • We are committed to one another even if we disagree.
  • Hold onto unity in diversity
  • You come together because of your shared belief in Jesus

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What would you say are some of our core values? Have you noticed the trend towards dividing and debating in Christianity? Have you ever fallen into it? Why do you think it’s happening? Do you think that “holding onto unity in diversity” is important? How come? Who can you love this week? What can you practically do?

Challenge for the Week: Love someone you disagree with this week

Theological Weaponry and Words

901898_95139400I read this the other day and it really struck me. “I don’t think God is glorified by tightly crafted argument wielded as weaponry.” Sarah Bessey 

Sarah was commenting on how we seek to craft our theological arguments into weapons that win the argument, break the defense of others, and cause harm. I think this is both sad and true.

So often when God enters into the conversation, rather than discussion and sharing, we debate and argue.

Now don’t get me wrong I love theology, I love debating, and wrestling with God and theological issues. The point is that there is often a point in a conversation where it becomes less about wrestling with an idea or with God, and more about wrecking another person’s views.

I’m not saying that I believe everyone has a right or correct view. But so often rather than trying to help one another grow, we try to show through our intellectual prowess, mastery of theological language, or biblical understanding that our position is not only better – that your position is stupid, small, and clearly wrong. That you, as a person, are clearly stupid, small, and wrong for believing…whatever.

The point is that we argue not to grow in theological understanding; so often we argue to prove we are better than someone else. And I agree with Sarah, God is not pleased when we try to prove our worth by proving someone else’s deficiency whether that is in relation to morals, actions, or theological belief.

So I’m all for wrestling, discussion, and growing. I just want there to be grace and love in the midst of dialogue and debate. Because the truth is I hold my beliefs strongly, and I think you should too. Let’s just make sure that our strongly held beliefs don’t slide over from being strongly held to violently pushed, coercively driven, and hatefully argued.

The Life of Theological Debate

663092_26111643I have a confession: I love theology. My wife has a confession probably as well, she would say I have an obsession with theology. I read way too many books, listen to podcasts, and half of my suitcase on our vacations is filled with books and highlighters to read while on a beach.

So that is the context for the next thought I have. While I love theology, I’m not a huge fan of theological debate in church. It is not that I’m intimidated by conflict, by discussion, or by contrasting viewpoints. The reason I’m not a big fan of debate is that debate often devolves into something so un-Jesusy (I know, not a theological word for someone who reads so many books).

The point is that when people start talking about Jesus, they for some reason, stop looking and sounding like Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with discussion around theology. I love it, need it, and actually search it out. What I’m not a fan of is people using theology as a springboard to prove their own intellectual prowess, certainty, or general “rightness”. What this means is that when people enter into a theological debate they are generally not interested in learning or growing, but being right and proving the other person wrong. The point becomes about winning rather than growing. And this is where, for me, I tend to exit the conversation. I love discussing, being challenged, and growing; I just don’t find that debates help with that. Jesus tends to ask questions, debates give up only clear cut answers. Debates are about shutting off the conversation by being right, rather than opening up a conversation by admitting our humility. So while I’m not scared of theological debate, I’m much more interested in growing in theological depth. I just haven’t found the two often connected.

Perhaps you’ve had a different experience than me, and that’d be great. But either way I have a challenge for you. The next time you find yourself in a theological debate, ask yourself this question: am I trying to be right, or help people grow?

Because the answer to that one question can change the whole thing…