The trend this week has been a tough one.
It seems inevitable that politics will overrun the world in division and anger, doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I have several friends going to bat on social media platforms and in person for or against one issue or another and it’s exhausting. It seems like we’re all standing on some sort of minefield and no matter which way you step, you’re losing that leg, buddy.
Everywhere I turn online and elsewhere it seems I’m walking into another lecture. Like that time I went over to my friend’s house down the street. We often would just walk into each others’ houses. We were cool like that.
One day I walked in and his mom was yelling at him about something. Do I stay? Do I go? Is the Demogorgon coming out of the wall? It was awkward and unpleasant.
If I could, I’d like to humbly offer some insights to the types of thinking I see in these discussions that seem to only cause pain, rather than healing. It is my opinion that we have a discussion problem that stems from faulty thinking.
I think we’d be better of if somehow these four thinking trends could stop:
Thinking Trend 1: The Chain Lightning
This unfortunate trend says that if you believe X, then you must/probably also believe A, B, and C.
Think about how irrational that is. If you like potatoes, you probably like corn, carrots, and red meat. If you think abortion should be legal, you’re probably an atheist, homosexual, and young. If you are a Christian, you must hate homosexuals, minorities, and women. What?
Regardless of how common or uncommon it is for those who think X to think A, B, and C, it is illogical to assume that they are somehow a given, connected in some kind of chain.
This causes our discussions of difficult topics to become scattered, illogical, frustrating, and offensive. It keeps us from staying on topic and truly hearing one another.
The thinking that must win instead is “if you believe X, there is probably a reason. Before I judge you on A, B, or C, let me try to understand why you think X.
See The 8 Fold Path to Great Spiritual Conversations for more on this.
Thinking Trend 2: The True Christian
This way of thinking suggests that if you’re a true Christian, you’ll do/practice X. This thinking can be summed up as “generalities about the salvation of other Christians.”
Why hello there, Legalism! So salvation is now 1) Visible to the naked eye, and 2) dependent on something other than grace?
It would be very easy to simply categorize someone as “deplorable” if you want to, regardless of your perspective or beliefs. But the real question we have to ask ourselves is this: Christian, does this practice honor God? Non-believer, is this the pathway to peace?
Last I checked, all humanity has the same sin problem. It makes no sense to question someone else’s salvation because of their behavior because there is no way of knowing the truth that way. Remember, our God looks at the heart and so should we.
When we accept Christ do we immediately become “good?” Do we halt all sinning immediately and indefinitely? People are broken.
Rather than try to shatter them into even smaller bits, let’s take the plank from our own eyes first and remember that even those who hate us and hate what Christians value are loved by God and should, therefore, be loved by us.
I’m not going to say much else about Christians questioning other Christians’ salvation. You know better.
The thinking that must win is “Christians, including myself, are all over the map in understanding Scripture. I will be patient as I ask others what they believe and why and constantly form my own beliefs from the study of God’s Word.”
Thinking Trend 3: The Clone Wars
This incredibly naïve way of seeing the world suggests that everyone has had the same experiences and relationships as I have, therefore, there is no reason my thinking should be taken as anything but law.
But that’s not the case, is it? Life is different here in Texas from New York and California. In locations of the world where there are many different cultures and people groups and beliefs and backgrounds living on top of each other, a different understanding is born.
Sometimes, in an effort to live in harmony with each other (a Biblical command), concessions are made to accommodate that harmony. What we then do not realize is that these concessions become part of our theology, which can contradict Biblical truth and cause internal and external struggle.
It’s the person who is told to love their neighbor as themselves, but their neighbor is a Muslim, so does that mean I don’t try to tell them about Jesus because it could cause family strife? Or maybe I don’t know any homosexuals personally and my friend who does has no problem with that lifestyle because he has a friend he loves and just wants a good life for them.
Do you see the dilemma? My experiences are valuable, but they are not a good litmus test for what God’s Truth is. Thankfully, we have his Word and His Spirit. We have to keep coming back to that over and over again while finding ways to live in harmony with each other (a Biblical command) instead of living under the delusion that everyone’s life is a clone of mine.
That’s much harder to live out than “you’re over there and we’re over here so let’s just not talk.”
The thinking that must win is “My experience and relationships aren’t the same as everyone. Maybe I don’t understand how that has impacted their belief about God (nor my own) and I should be gracious when their interpretation of Truth is different than mine.”
Thinking Trend 4: The Religious Monk
At this point, it would be easy to say “well, I’m just going to stay out of it.” I don’t think we can Biblically get away with that and here’s why…
We are called (Romans 10) to preach the Truth about Jesus to the culture. Paul did it well in Acts 17 when he addressed the Areopagus about the statue to the unknown god. He embraced the culture where it was and lead the listeners to truth.
Notice how he didn’t tell them that they were ridiculous and stupid for worshiping limestone statues and then cut them out of his life because “he just can’t even.”
Paul put extra effort into evangelism. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and eventually killed because of it…and you “can’t even?” Not the message of the New Testament. Sorry, you can’t sit this one out.
Yes, this is difficult and you could be labeled an idiot by many. Yes, you could lose friends because they see you as “one of those” and write you off as a bigot or a misogynist.
Our call is to engage the culture with the truth of the Gospel, not retreat into our churches to sing empty songs about saving our world while we cower behind the skirt of Biblical education.
The thinking that must win is “I cannot shirk my responsibility to share the Good News in the world, but I have to think about presenting Truth in the winsome way Jesus did, not as a club to whack dissenters over the head with.”
Now, let’s find out who read to the bottom of the post before commenting.
I am NOT trying to make a political statement with this blog, only trying to say that the WAY we think about these things might be doing more harm than good.
These trends of thinking must end before we tear each other apart while the devil sits by with popcorn cheering us on. Only by seeing each other as valuable humans who are loved by God can we allow the peace of God in Christ lead us to harmony.
I’m sure you’ve got thoughts on this, so let’s go!