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.

Immigration Reform


MigrantImmigration reform is a hotbed issue in the political arena, and it received renewed attention when the Virginia congressman Eric Cantor lost his primary election.

The first reports concerning this “shocking defeat” concluded that Mr. Cantor’s position on immigration reform was the issue that brought him down. Pundits rushed to add that this result spelled doom for any hope for a change in our immigration law in the near future.

“Immigration reform is almost certainly dead on Capitol Hill this year,” according to Politico. And Fox News agreed: “Cantor’s loss could send immigration talks into a deep freeze.” Candidates, the thinking goes, would be too afraid of their constituents’ response if they back any meaningful overhaul of our current failed policies.

A few voices of reason have restored some order to this discussion. This election involved one state, one primary, with low voter turn out. It does not necessarily reflect a national trend! Sadly, however, I think the events surrounding the Virginia primary are a microcosm of what’s wrong with politics in America.

First, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, which recently commemorated those who died to defend our country and what we stand for, only a minority actually exercise their right to vote. The majority might grumble and complain, but they remain on the sidelines.

Second, the media drives the discussion. Once we believed in journalistic integrity in this country, which meant that nothing was reported as fact unless it was verified by at least two sources. So where is the data that proves as fact that voters turned away from Cantor because of his stance on immigration?

Third, once the media has delivered their “findings,” their reports drive the discussion and color the convictions of many.

Fourth, politicians care more about keeping their job than about serving their country. We no longer have a majority of leaders willing to do what’s right at the expense of their job or the loss of their precious legacy.

Gerald_Ford_(portrait)The truth is, those who work unselfishly for the good of others often have the legacy the power-hungry covet. I think, for example, of President Gerald Ford, the only US President never to be elected as either President or Vice President. He came to power because Congress chose him to fill the Vice Presidency to replace Spiro Agnew, leaving him in line for the Presidency when Richard Nixon resigned. His controversial move one month into his tenure was to pardon Nixon of his crimes committed as President because he believed this to be the quickest way to put the Watergate scandal behind the country and promote healing.

Many grant in hindsight that [Ford] had respectably discharged with considerable dignity a great responsibility that he had not sought. His subsequent loss to Carter in 1976 has come to be seen as an honorable sacrifice he made for the nation. (“Gerald Ford”)

Who in government is making honorable sacrifices today?

On the contrary, we have reports of “leaders” distancing themselves from one of the issues that desperately needs to be addressed—the question of our immigration plan.

As it is, our borders remain porous—allowing drug smuggling as well as human trafficking to take place. For months, perhaps years, places along our borders have endured gang wars as various drug cartels battle for control of the drug pipelines to our cities.

At the same time, poor, downtrodden immigrants from Central America and Mexico search for ways to escape the danger, poverty, and brutality of the countries they are fleeing. Sometimes they end up as virtual slaves here in America because they turned to an unscrupulous coyote to provide them with passage into the US. Some die. Others reach their destination penniless because they spent all they had on their flight.

In short, illegal immigration continues to take place. We have not adequately addressed how to protect our borders from the criminal activity that takes place or how to identify people in genuine need of asylum in America.

Making matters worse, we also have second generation illegals who came to the US as children or whose parents came illegally before they were born. Some face the possibility of deportation to a country they have never known, others the prospect of separation from their parents.

That’s the price of illegal activity, some will say. However, that kind of hard line is not a position we take with any other comparable criminal behavior. For example, if someone smuggles a costly souvenir from their vacation into the US because they don’t want to pay the duty, are they deported? Is their property taken from them without a chance to redeem it?

In addition, in what other circumstances are children punished because of the decision of their parents, the way immigrant children face deportation because their parents brought them to the US when they were infants or toddlers?

Clearly changes need to take place in the area of immigration. Some, shamefully using a kind of “us four and no more” mentality, want to see the US close to new immigrants altogether. Others advocate for the kind of amnesty that turns resident illegal immigrants into citizens which the country tried in the 1980s.

Neither extreme is a workable solution, but continuing the status quo isn’t workable either. That leaves immigration reform as the only answer.

Unfortunately, this complex problem with many facets requires real leadership to find a way out of the morass, and apparently right now our federal government is in short supply of that quality.

My hope is that Christians can lead the way. Rather than threatening to withhold support from a candidate who wishes to address this issue, we should be on the front lines encouraging them to do so.

We need sensible, just, compassionate change in our immigration policy which requires honest, fair men and women to find the best solutions. Yes, I wish those in leadership were true servants, willing to put the good of the nation ahead of their own political future, but in lieu of the ideal, we should look to the next best thing—citizens rallying behind candidates who are willing to study the issue and search for an answer.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

I’ll be honest. I believe we’re responsible before God for what we do about unwanted children, elderly widows who can’t support themselves, and aliens and strangers looking for hope and help.

The latter is our mission field, come to us instead of us going to them. The least we can do is to advocate for a fair policy that can offer them hope and help rather than a closed door.