Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Drawing the Right Lines

Can Christians who believe different things work together on similar things? Even when they belong to dissimilar churches? Or they have some very dissimilar ideas about doctrine?

Yes, if they will draw the right lines for the right situations. And those lines will necessarily depend on the scope of the work. Let me say it this way. If the mission is broad, the lines are narrow. If the mission is narrow, the lines are broad. And that’s a good thing. It is a good and necessary distinction. And more people ought to get a hold of this, and save themselves the frustration of wondering why we can’t all just get along. We can, if we draw the right lines.

So, let me do the work of explaining what I mean by that. 

The members of a local church will need more areas of agreement than the members of a parachurch ministry. This is because a church will participate in a broader spectrum of life and ministry than people who come together for a particular parachurch ministry.

Churches will draw different lines than parachurch ministries. A church will have certain doctrines and emphasize certain positions. Still, a church can work together with another church to accomplish some common goal. Even when they are not in the same “group” or denomination. Because they don’t have to agree on every doctrine to agree on a certain ministry mission. It is a limited partnership, and therefore it requires a more limited number of agreements.   

For example, there can be a lot of different churches who work together to provide disaster relief. Or who work together in a serving line for a soup kitchen. Maybe they come together for a season to advocate for a new Christian clinic.      

Now that’s church to church. Of course, inside a single local church, the lines are drawn differently. In a sense, more narrowly. Full cooperation within a church will require adherence to certain standards. The number of common commitments will be greater than with a parachurch ministry because the fellowship is more central, more pervasive, more permanent. The idea is not to make a church unique, and so narrow that no one can fit in. However, the teaching of certain distinctives will not be able to be avoided.     

In a parachurch ministry, those distinctives are less necessary. The amount of non-negotiables will be less. The lines are broader, because the mission is narrower. A parachurch ministry is usually devoted to a more singular emphasis, something specific, a more particularly focused mission. Therefore, it will be more limited and minimal in its formal positions. And so, there is room for people of different opinions on secondary matters to work together towards that mission, unless their practice of those opinions hinders that mission.

For example, a counseling ministry wouldn’t be addressing young earth vs. old earth creationism. That would be irrelevant to accomplishing the mission of the ministry.

Another example would be that a Calvinist and an Arminian, or a Cessationist and a Continuationist, or a Pre-tribulation dispensationalist and an Amillenialist, these can work together in a homeless or rescue mission, unless one or the other “pushes their brand”, trying to prove their position and focusing on those things as essential to the mission. They are not.

A third example would be that of a Christian K-12 school attached to a Pentecostal church. They teach biblical lessons, but they don’t focus on teaching students to speak in tongues, and they don’t require teachers to be Pentecostal. And those teachers who aren’t Pentecostal don’t teach against it. Rather, the school and its teachers focus on academics. And as far as religious instruction, they focus on the Gospel, the existence of God, and the authority of the Bible – God is real, the Bible is true, Jesus is the only way. Societal and political issues may be touched on in clear cases. The point is that it is a K-12 school, not a denominational seminary, and not a church.

Christians can work together, between the lines, in the same place, if they will do the work of drawing the right lines in the first place.  

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 10, 2022

Holding Forgiveness Hostage

Have you ever “fallen out” with someone? There is some sort of extended relational trouble. There was close friendship. Now there is cold formality. Something has happened, and now both sides are distant. Maybe there hasn’t been what people call ghosting. There is still some level of involvement. But it isn’t like it used to be. Maybe there hasn’t been what people call gaslighting. We haven’t tried to convince the other person that they are the villain. But it isn’t like it used to be. And maybe the reason is that our hearts are holding forgiveness hostage.

There is probably blame on both sides. But both sides are probably entrenched in a stubborn standoff. There hasn’t been any sort of actual attempt at biblical forgiveness. There hasn’t been any real Mark 11:25 in our hearts, and so there hasn’t been any real Luke 17:3 in our practice.

Now we may think or convince ourselves that we are willing to forgive. But we are only willing to forgive if it happens on our terms. This isn’t a real willingness. This is holding forgiveness hostage until our ransom demands are met. It feels like this…

I feel like you started it. So, I won’t come to confess and ask you for forgiveness until you come to confess and ask me for forgiveness first.

I feel like your part is the bigger part. So, I don’t want to admit my part in the wrong until I feel like you have admitted your part in the wrong.

I feel like you don’t see your part in this. So, I’m not going to come to you and ask for forgiveness when I know that you won’t reciprocate.

I could go on, but you get the idea. This is sinful stubbornness. I need to feel vindicated. But I am actually being vindictive. You are holding forgiveness hostage to your feelings. And it is hurting you. Because holding forgiveness hostage is holding your healing hostage.  

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©