Reprise: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

When some people talk about Christians loving one another, they have in mind something akin to the secular idea of tolerance: we’re all supposed to accept other people where they are, how they are, regardless of what they believe. If it’s “true for them” than who am I to judge? The only belief that isn’t tolerated, it seems, is the one that says there is an authoritative right and wrong, a moral standard to which we all are accountable.

Now I fear that this wolfish tolerance attitude has stolen into the church dressed up sheepishly as love.

I fear this for two reasons. First, Christians have God’s direct command to love one another, but a false idea of what that love is can serve as an excuse to ignore Christ’s mandate. All Christians who aren’t exactly like me, then, don’t qualify as a brother I am to love, opening the door to partiality — something James speaks against unequivocally.

I fear this false love taking up residence in our churches for another reason: it fosters an “anything goes” mentality. No longer will Christians pay attention to what the Bible says about various issues because love is more important than “petty” differences.

Love is more important than petty differences, but what happens when “petty” becomes “any”? What happens when “petty” includes salvation, inspiration of Scripture, humankind’s sin nature, heaven and hell, the deity of Christ, the creation of the world, God’s role as a just judge, and any number of other beliefs clearly delineated in Scripture?

I find it particularly interesting that in one of the great passages about unity in the church, where Paul compares us to a body, with various parts fitting together to make a functioning whole, he includes the importance of sound doctrine.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:11-16, [emphasis added]).

So if we’re supposed to grow up into Christ, think for a moment about Christ and tolerance. Would we hear Him say, Can’t we all just get along? Not likely.

I suspect He saw a good bit of bickering from His disciples. After all, they discussed who would be the greatest in the kingdom, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee tried to do an end-around to get her boys into privileged positions.

That kind of self-promotion was the thing Jesus wanted them to do away with, I believe. Leadership was to mean servanthood, and the greatest was to get on his knees beside a basin of water to wash his brother’s feet.

In contrast, nowhere do I see Jesus telling His disciples to take a soft stand on truth. Instead, He was rather in-your-face about the matter. He spoke regularly and authoritatively from Scripture, and His pronouncements divided people. He knew this would be the case.

What He wanted, though, was those believing the truth to stand together, to serve each other, to look out for one another’s interests, not just their own.

That’s the love the church needs, not the “Can’t we all just get along,” pseudo love the world calls tolerance. That’s the love that will let people know what “Christian” really means.

This post, sans a few minor changes, first appeared here in June 2011.

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8 Comments

  1. Well said, Becky. Something that has stuck with me is the concept that, “justice is love.” When anything goes, when everything is being tolerated, there is no justice. That is like anarchy. One reason the US has a Constitution, laws, etc, is to protect the more vulnerable among us from abuses of power. In a situation where anything goes, where no one is wiling to be intolerant about certain things, it is always the smallest, weakest, and powerless among us that get crushed. So love cannot exist where there is no justice. It’s a rather poor example, but some child sexual abuse scandals within the church show this. People didn’t want to rock the boat, didn’t want to create disunity, didn’t want to create division, and kids wound up getting hurt. That is what love looks like when it does not include justice.

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    • I really like this, IB. It’s so true that true justice does not let bullies continue to bully or murders continue to murder or thieves continue to steal. It’s not only loving to the victims, it’s loving to the sinners because justice offers them a chance to repent of their sin and turn to God to be clothed in His righteousness.

      We seem to understand the need for justice when it comes to the “big things” society cares about, but we the Church, at least here in the US, appear to be less concerned about false teaching or personal sin that “harms no one.” (There really is no such thing, I don’t think).

      Becky

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  2. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

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  3. Positively excellent, but I MUST say, (after taking 12 hours to make up my mind whether I should), by you, very inconsistently practiced piece Rebecca.

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    • Greg, I guess you missed InsanityBytes’s comment: “Justice is love.”

      I’m sorry that whatever online interaction we had has been disrupted. I don’t know how to change things since you have not apologized for assuming the worst in me (much the way this note sounds as well) though you could give me no basis for your accusations. I’ve forgiven you from my heart, but I don’t know how to “just go on.” I appreciate that you continue to read, at least from time to time, and feel the freedom to comment. I just don’t see us engaging in a lot of conversations, however, because I don’t know that you won’t again misconstrue what I write.

      So call it consequences or justice or whatever, I still await the apology you said you would give me.

      Becky

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      • This is a woeful misrepresentation of the situation Rebecca. After much additional prayer and deliberation, I have decided not to prove that at this time. A person could find the history of this present conversation with a bit of diligence of Spec-Faith.

        I stand by both my praise of this excellent piece and my observation of it’s selective application.

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        • Greg, I’m not going to fight with you. I understand that you believe the worst of me. In that, I suppose we agree. I am a sinner saved by grace and nothing more.

          Becky

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          • Oh, for Pete’s sake 🙂 I do NOT believe the worst of you Rebecca. I never wanted to fight either. I asked some questions about what you believe. You refused to answer.

            All kinds of people ask me what I believe all the time. I am fully prepared to proclaim and defend those very well historically attested biblical views to absolutely anybody who asks. I consider it an honor to be asked and a joy to answer.

            What am I to think when I run into people who refuse? All this was spelled out in excruciating detail back then.

            No, I do not believe the worst of you. There are people I know with some of your views that I write off as godless pagans. Until confronted with unassailably conclusive evidence to the contrary, I refuse to believe you are not better than those views.

            That’s why I keep reading and even sometimes send others to this blog. This only sounds arrogant to people who have bought into the post modern lie. (I can hear some of your readers thinking)

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