If you ever wonder why it is so difficult to find vibrant expressions of body life today, you have to look no further than the comments to my recent post about the presidential election. I would consider that most of the people who frequent my blog share a passion to know the reality of God’s love and to live in it fully. I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me, nor would I want them to. I wanted people to vote the conscience however that was informed in this election and celebrate the fact that others did as well.
Yet, on a topic as temporal as politics the emotions ran high in most of the 72 comments (and counting!) that were posted. Some included heavy judgments against others, and some felt judged by those who disagreed with them. I know I joked on the podcast about doing this post to “thin the herd,” but that was only in fun. I knew it would be provocative but I wanted to see how people would respond to it and to me. To be honest I was shocked at the scale of the response, not the diversity. I expected lots of people to see this election different than I did, but I was most saddened by the oft-repeated spirit that demanded others see the election as they saw it or have their Christianity or their intelligence questioned. Certainly every comment wasn’t like that, but enough were. And these are just the public comments. I’ve had many more private emails, some applauding what I wrote as they had voted similarly but were afraid to admit it, and some promising they’d never visit this site again because I was obviously a hypocrite or was dumb enough to be deceived by the Great Deceiver.
But this does express why the body of Christ is having trouble finding each other and living in his life together. Many see conformity on these kinds of issues as a requirement for fellowship and respect. On the one had, that’s just passion and I understand it. On another, it derives from a a mistaken worldview that everyone who is serious about Jesus will have the same conscience I have, and if they deviate from mine I have to set them straight or reject them. I’m going to call that what it is—incredibly immature spirituality. The apostles of the early church saw the individual conscience as the arena in which God makes his will known and that the larger community did not have the right to trump that conscience or marginalize a member because they saw it differently, even if you regard me as a ‘weaker brother’ for voting as I did. See Romans 14-15 or I Corinthians 8.
Every gathering of the body of Christ faces this issue, whether it be eight in a home group or hundreds in a larger gathering. If we all have to think the same politically, or even theologically on minor issues to share our brother and sisterhood, then someone has to decide what that standard is. That’s why many people think we have ‘leadership.’ And they would be wrong, because all that leads to is multiple groups who all gather with those who think just like them and reject those who don’t.
If the body of Christ is going to demonstrate herself today in the corporate majesty of her collaboration and cooperation then Jesus will have to be our only focus and loving others will be our motivation, not a demand for conformity. We can be honest in love and no one will get hurt. But we can’t be honest in judgment and hope to demonstrate anything to the world except how empty the cross is, or how irrelevant God’s power.
Jesus asked us to love as we follow him; he didn’t ask us to agree. If we have to agree to love, then what hope have we? If a group has to all think alike to have fellowship then they have pitched a tent at some stage of the journey and will not grow on to know him. In most groups I’ve known, conformity has been the goal. Someone needs to set the standard for the group and people either go along or go away. Neither leads to the reality of Christ expressed among his people.
So here is the problem today. Too many people think they alone are right and anyone who disagrees with them is a threat to their world. And it only takes one person like that in a group to destroy its ability to live, love and grow together. Until we have enough brothers and sisters that have a passion for truth that does not outrun their calling to love others, the body of Christ will continue to be fractured and impotent in the world. And they’ll have to have enough love to lovingly stand up to those who would be divisive among the family by demanding everyone think like they do.
But where we can differ in conscience and still love; where we celebrate the individual acting in accord with their conscience even if we disagree, then we’ll discover relationships that will demonstrate his glory in the earth. I’ve noticed this over my journey, those who are most settled in God’s truth feel no compulsion to conform others to it. They know truth has a power all its own and that a generosity of spirit will open people to it faster than bashing them with their opinion ever will.
How I yearn for the day that enough people understand that so that the body of Christ can gather not based on the false unity of human conformity, but on a love that is greater than all our disagreements and a humility of spirit that allows our differences to be discussed openly without others being loved.
Then we won’t need so-called leaders to police the peace or make us act like we are of one mind, because we will have Jesus’, in ever-increasing abundance. And then the world will see that Jesus was the gift of the Father and that they too can share in his glory.