It has sometimes irked me, over the past few months, to see and hear fantastically snide and superior displays of behaviour, by Christians against other Christians due to a difference of Biblical opinion, lifestyle opinion, or opinion full stop.
The reason why these displays have annoyed me is that they overwhelmingly have failed to take into account or be sensitive to the different spiritual levels each individual is at. It would appear in some cases the sole objective is to make the intended target feel like a raging bull in a Spanish bull pit; indignant with fury at being provoked, unaware of the impending slaughter and death that awaits it. I use this analogy because when these ‘differences’ are handled inappropriately, it can lead to spiritual death in some people via bitterness, resentment and a corrupted opinion of Christians and Christianity. It is almost as if there is an unwritten code that goes by the heading ‘The Christian’s Version Of Christianity’ the two most important laws which encapsulate every other law being:
- ‘A Christian is not allowed to grow spiritually, but must already be a finished product. Get with the program NOW, or you’re going to Hell. Sorry. I love you, that’s why I’m telling you.’
- Disagree with me and you’re going to Hell. Sorry. I love you, that’s why I’m telling you. Oh, and Jesus does too. But He agrees with me & if you don’t, well…you’re going to Hell’
I think it is fair to say that the above attitude is usually expressed from a place of self-righteousness, or at least a view that we are leading higher, purer, more pious and spiritually elevated lives than the intended target of our judgement. However the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Not, ‘some sinned more than others, therefore if you’re only a liar you’re closer to Heaven than a murderer and you have my Heavenly permission to make them look like the ragamuffin Christian that they are’. You see, God never categorised sin, humans did, that’s why we have the guts to speak to some people the way we do sometimes, with a venom and snobbishness that’s embarrassing to behold. I think that sometimes God must laugh to hear us speak the way we do, knowing that we all have enough skeletons in our closet to rattle and produce more melodious and harmonious symphonies than a full professional orchestra.
Just as God had grace on us and in His mercy sent Jesus to deliver us from the penalty of our sins, we too need to extend that grace to others and express it amongst ourselves. Instead of sniping at each other and scripturally karate chopping our neighbour in their back with zealous delight, let’s be encouraging and express our opinions in a respectful manner; the Bible says ‘Preach the Word: be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction’ ( 2 Timothy 4 v 2). If you really struggle to do that and are passionately convinced that the person you are conversing with is one hallelujah away from heathenism, do them a favour…close your mouth and pray – ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective’ ( James 5 v 16). You are righteous…aren’t you?
It would be helpful if we all took more into consideration that becoming a Christian is not like suddenly reaching the pinnacle of Christianity; it’s more like planting a seed that gets watered with reading the Bible, sermons, fellowship with other Christians, and then under that ministration flourishes and grows. [It can also die dependant on the quality of water it receives, if it is getting ‘water’ at all. We should consider what quality of water we are showering into people’s lives]. But even then, it has to undergo some pruning in order for that growth to occur and last. Some dead and unproductive bits may have to be cut off every once in a while. These dead or unproductive bits may include a faulty perception of what it means to be a Christian, it may include some false doctrine and, sometimes, downright sinful behaviour. However, just as Jesus had mercy and grace on us and gently and carefully coaxed us into His presence, the same way we need to be with each other if we think we spot these errors in each other. Furthermore we need to be more mindful of not slinging boomerang shaped stones because a) they might come whirling back and clip us on the back of our head (See Romans 2 v 1) and b) indiscriminately tossing that stone is not going to encourage anyone, only put them on the defensive and make them think we’re being a Christian snob. A founded accusation.
Yes, the Bible says that scripture is ‘useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Tim 3 v 16), but don’t dogmatically stick to one of it’s tenets at the expense of other instructions, for example some of the fruits of the Spirit; patience, kindness, gentleness. We need to be sensitive to each others’ levels of faith and spiritual development instead of always leaping at an opportunity to voice/ display spiritual superiority.
Can we just fellowship please? No discord or strife? A kind word, an encouragement? Unfortunately, there is not always this mutual edification going on, hence why some people are leaving Church and forsaking Christianity extremely bitter and twisted. The Bible says iron sharpens iron and I believe that this was written for us to understand how key to each others’ spiritual progression we all are. We are not separate entities, we are part of one body, each of us being different parts. As the Bible says, if every part of the body was the same where would the body be? (1 Corinthians 12 v 17). I can’t put it better than what is already written:
“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12 v 24 – 27)
I conclude with this: ‘Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers’ (1 Timothy 4 v 16). My layman’s translation: you watch your Christianity (inclusive of business to a certain extent) and i’ll watch mine, and in doing so we’ll help each other and be better off for it.
As always, I look forward to taking my own advice.