In our most recent podcast, Drew and I talked about anti-intellectualism in the church and getting pushback from other Christians. This got me thinking about the bigger issue of division within the church, and how Christians treat each other. When Christians disagree, whether from denomination differences, or having conflicting ideas about the role of science and philosophy, it can get messy. We talked about two particular groups, but I won’t get into the specific details of those here, but they both tend to react harshly to Christians who disagree. Paul does tell us to confront those who spread false ideas, but how far does that go?
We need to be careful when talking like this. All of us have the same goal; to spread the good news of Jesus to a lost world, and better understand what God has told us through the Bible. We are coming at the same discussion from different views, and then getting angry at each other because of it. But even if it is an occasion where we ought to correct another Christian, we should still ask, how are we treating other Christians? I think there’s a few things we all need to keep in mind when faced with this question.
1. Show Grace to Christians Too
While some might disagree, and point out Christian hypocrisy, a lot of Christians do actually try and model Christ’s love to the world. We know that actions speak louder than words, and sometimes the best way to spread the gospel is through humility and love, not a gospel tract. We recognize that the world is watching us, and sometimes waiting for us to falter, so we try and be on our best behavior. But what about our interactions with other Christians? Just because they are already on the team, so to speak, are we then dropping any attempt at grace and compassion with each other? Just because there isn’t a secular world watching for us to make a mistake when we’re with other Christians does not mean we should stop modeling that love and grace. Jesus tells us to “Love each other, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) If a Christian gets up to speak, should the nastiest critic be a fellow Christian?
2. Don’t be Proud or Condescending.
This is by far the issue I struggle with the most, if the podcast didn’t make that obvious. This applies to everyone, but I think we in the apologetics community need to be especially careful not to look down on other Christians for not sharing our passion. I do think apologetics is extremely important, and I wish more Christians would take to studying it. But people are wired differently, and not everyone wants this approach. Help and encourage where you can, but never look down on another Christian like you’re better than them. Part of being a Tentmaking Christian is humility. We recognize that we are largely leaning on the wise men who came before us.
We have no reason to look down on another. After all, who are we? C.S. Lewis wrote on Pride in Mere Christianity like this. “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” I wish I could say I have learned this lesson, but I regularly fall into that trap.
3. Learn to agree to disagree
This is something our entire culture needs right now. Too often we forget how to interact while disagreeing. Maybe it’s about political leanings, apologetic methods, or your views on the age of the Earth. We need to ask the question, is this really worth fighting over? Part of this is understanding of the fundamentals of Christianity to know whether something is essential. But part of it is having enough humility to treat your fellow Christians with love and respect. If you disagree, great! Iron sharpens iron, and how better to put your ideas to the test than with someone who disagrees? You don’t have to ignore these big questions, but ultimately you can’t get so hung up on them that you start seeing the person as an enemy of Christ.
In all of this we need to be especially careful not to stereotype or mis-characterize the groups either. Part of why I wanted to write this all down is I worried I might be doing that. So please, learn from my mistakes and treat other Christians like the children of God that they are. Don’t run from a debate, but don’t be the nastiest person in the room either. Build each other up with gentleness and respect.
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