• With time, we will see this as a year of sifting (Lk 22:31). You may have heard speculation that 30% of Protestant churches in North America will fail in the next year. If that were to happen, it’s probably more wise to see it as refinement than decline. We’re being sifted. Malachi said the Lord’s presence is a “refiner’s fire… he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord” (Mal 3). Heat breaks bonds. False bonds are being broken; true bonds will remain. There’s a storm beating on the house. All that is not built on the cornerstone of Christ is being washed away.
• Here’s one aspect of the storm. It’s likely that in the last 6 months you’ve discovered fissures of disagreement with other believers, or worse, you may find yourself alienated from someone with whom you were once close. Just remember that disagreement in the Body does not prove a false bond. The person with whom you disagree may well be standing firm on the cornerstone of Christ, just as you are.
• In a wisdom that is not always attractive to us, Jesus formed a traveling band of disciples who, apart from himself, would never have been natural friends. Simon was a Zealot, what we would have called a Zionist in the mid-20th century, a man who took his vows to his nation more seriously than his vows to God. Matthew was a tax collector, a traitor to his nation. Imagine a three-year camping trip with that happy couple. Neither of them was at first highly committed to God, yet both came to stand so firmly on Christ that all the pressure and persecution of the book of Acts could not separate them, either from Christ or from each other. The power of what they had in common was far greater than the power of their differences (which probably never went away), “for he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14).
• So in this year of differences and disagreement, let me offer two brief lists to bind us together in the love of Christ, which is beyond knowing and beyond breaking (Eph 3:17-19).
1. Both you and the person with whom you disagree have only one hope in life and in death: your faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He is your abundant life and your hope for the life to come. What ultimately matters to you is what ultimately matters to them.
2. Both you and the person with whom you disagree hold the Word of God as the “only rule of faith and practice.” Scripture is your one source of meaning in this life, and your one guide to how to live life. Your truth is their truth.
3. Both you and the person with whom you disagree hold probably 90-95% of the same doctrines based on the Word of God. You may shade things differently, but in the end you’re just coming at the same ideas from different angles. You have different perspectives on the same truths, not different truths.
• So how should we conduct ourselves in disagreement?
1. People are insecure, almost everyone, about all sorts of things. Nearly everyone wonders if they are worthy of being loved. Nothing has the power to diffuse and calm insecurity as love does. By virtue of Christ in you, you hold this power. You can greatly lessen the distance between yourself and another by offering sincere love. Besides, Christ commands it of us (Jn 13:34).
2. Listen attentively. Don’t talk. Your mental image of the person with whom you disagree may be just a caricature. Make a little vow to God that in the next difficult conversation you will listen carefully, then go home and recount to him in prayer what the person said. Think of it as homework for “Body Life 101.”
3. Obey Paul (and Christ) and consider others better than yourselves (Php 2). We usually look down on people as a kind of safeguard against discovering that we ourselves are the ones at fault or more deeply flawed. The path to that place of being exalted goes straight through a different place called broken humility. Embrace it. (Mt 23; Lk 14; Lk 18).
• So much more to say on this but enough for now. I love you all.