The other day I met with some fellow youth pastors. We shared stories, broke bread and had a time of getting to know each other. We shared some of our highlights, frustrations and ideas with each other. It’s good to have a network of people like this, because crazy things happen in ministry that only other pastors understand.
Sometimes the stories are funny mishaps, but other times they are darker tales of corruption and selfishness, like a Kwame Kilpatrick fiasco. Then there are those situations that fall somewhere in between, which I think are the majority. These are the tiffs that could have been handled in a simple five second conversation, but never were. One party (sometimes both) chose to walk away or put up blinders instead of trying to find a resolution. The inability to have resolution conversations is a wide spread epidemic in our culture, an illness with symptoms of high divorce rate and uncontrollable anger on social media news feeds.
Let’s be honest, unity is no easy task. Disagreements come up and they always will. There are people under the roof of the church who vote differently, spend their money differently and communicate using different words. When I read bible verses like Acts 4:32 which says, “All the believers were one in heart in mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they shared everything they had” I can’t help think ‘Yeah, right. For how long?’ It seems like it only takes a second to dissolve unity.
Paul writes in Philippians 2, “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” Peter said something similar: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” But how can they expect us to live this way? Hey Peter and Paul, things come up! I can’t possibly agree with him or her. You don’t know what they did or said. They vote democrat, they think it’s ok for Christians to drink alcohol, they listen to secular music, they…
I think the key to disarming our righteous anger is an eternal focus. Yes, some of the issues that come up between believers in the church are serious and need to be dealt with swiftly. However, I still think the most stigmatizing rifts that come between believers are the ones that are the easiest to fix, even if that fix is agreeing to disagree.
John Wesley said it well, “Even though we may not think alike, can we not love alike?” This quote has often been used out of context to bridge the gap between non-Christians and Christians on major issues such as gay marriage, but that wasn’t what Wesley was talking about. If you look at his sermon in context, this was spoken to the body of believers who let disagreements on the non-essentials come between them at the expense of being united in mind and effort.
We don’t have time for this kind of foolishness. There are people who need to hear the gospel of Jesus and most of us, on average, only have some 80 years to tell them. We can spend our time stewing over who our brethren are voting for, if their theology is Calvinistic or Emergent, or we can shift our focus to the upcoming ten bajillion years and who we will be able to share the message of grace with. Far too often we value our anger, above relationships; the relationships we need to be united in spreading the gospel of Christ. That should be our real focus. As John Wesley went on to say, “May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”