Last week, I typed a response to a person I follow on Twitter. I left it on my phone for about an hour, thinking about whether or not to send it, and thought better of it. This person is a Christian. She has become a prominent theologian and advocate of egalitarian rights for women in ministry and in marriage. She has recently become a banner waver for the Christian LGBT movement. What bothers me most about this person is not her theology (though I disagree with her on countless fronts); rather, it is her apparent disdain for brothers and sisters whom she accuses, ridicules, and expresses apparent hatred towards via the public forum of Twitter, blogs, etc.
This morning, I saw another tweet of hers. Not only did it carry the same negative, hateful attitude, but it was directed at a brother with whom I worship on Sundays in the same local congregation. So I typed a response, and I sent it. I made the mistake, however, of responding, not to her graceless, divisive attitude, but to her theology. Realizing that I had done the exact same thing that I hate seeing her do, I deleted my tweet about twenty minutes later.
The point is this: we live in a world where chaos is king. War, persecution, sickness, confusion, exploitation, hatred, rivalry, and death seem to have the final say. But we are called to be a people who bring peace and life and joy into the midst of the chaos. When I get on Twitter and see Christians, some with whom I agree, others with whom I disagree, arguing back and forth, it breaks my heart. How are we bringing peace to the world when there’s not even peace in ourselves? How can we expect to put an end to chaos in the world when it reigns amidst us?
I’m certainly not advocating that we stop caring about doctrine. I’m not advocating we stop taking a stand for certain doctrines and beliefs. What I’m advocating is a Philippians 2 type of love for one another:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:1-3 ESV)
If the Spirit is even alive in you at all…if you have any encouragement from what Christ did for you on the cross…if you have any affection or sympathy…BE OF THE SAME MIND! That does NOT mean we have to agree on homosexuality or original sin or predestination or women’s roles in ministry. It DOES mean that we need to agree on our goal: advancing the reign of Christ in the world and overcoming death and hatred with love and joy and peace and life.
When I respond negatively to theological tweets and blogs, I’m not being affectionate or sympathetic. I’m acting from selfish ambition, promoting myself and my own theological agendas. I’m not humbly counting others more significant than myself; I’m arrogantly counting myself more significant than others!
What if, instead of first making snarky, hateful remarks to one another in a public sphere, we stopped to pray for one another? What if I prayed that the Holy Spirit would lead me in my theology and reading of Scripture before assuming I’m right? What if I prayed that the Holy Spirit would lead you in your theology before assuming it’s wrong and criticizing you?
This game we play of criticizing one another behind a computer or phone screen is not only evidence of our extreme cowardice, but it is unloving. Love “does not insist on its own way!”
When you post a blog or a tweet or something on Facebook defending certain people by criticizing others, you’re not helping God. Instead, you’re giving the world a skewed picture of Jesus, telling them that he is divided, that he argues, that he bickers, that he is selfish. You’re not bringing people closer to him, you’re pushing them away. I’m speaking to people on both sides here. Do we really want to be held responsible for that? Do we want to grieve the Holy Spirit by bringing disdain upon his name by those who see his people bickering and fighting? No. We are called to be one, united. Jesus Christ himself prayed for us to be united. Can’t we find unity, or at least civility, even amongst our greatest theological differences?
I remember as a kid bickering with my sister all the time. I also remember how upset our parents would get at us when we did. I realize now that they didn’t just get upset at us for misbehaving. They were particularly hurt because of how sad it was to see their two children not getting along. Their only desire was not that we would just shut up and behave and be perfect kids. Nor was it that we would agree on everything. It was that we would get along and love one another well and strive for the same purposes, even if we didn’t agree on everything. I think I can almost identify with my parents now, and I certainly think my parents can identify with how God feels when he checks his Twitter feed.