“We are in a season of lament,” says the pastor of a church divided politically down the middle, right down to his own marriage. Linda, one of those church members and a regular Catch reader who experiences that division in her own marriage recently wrote me about it. After outlining a wonderful partnership she has had with her husband over the years, both in life and in ministry, she related that they suddenly don’t see eye to eye politically. The only way they are getting along is to decide to “NOT TALK” about certain issues. “We’re managing,” she wrote … “but is that a good solution?” No, I would say, that is not.
She went on to paint a picture of people in their church stepping gingerly around each other, lest they step on someone’s toes, while also noticing “when we do find a kindred soul we unload and vent! But is this healthy? Isn’t there a good way to walk through all this together?”
Ideally, yes, but realistically, it’s going to take a lot of work. “I yearn for churches to offer safe places for ‘divided couples’ and families to come together and learn to love, listen and reconcile,” Linda writes, and she is so right about that. “How do we do that? I know some churches are very homogeneous, so maybe they’re not struggling.” I doubt that. Maybe they aren’t struggling, but the reason they aren’t — that they all think alike — is not a healthy one.
The more capable we are of tolerating each other’s diverse thinking and still love and support each other, the stronger the bond. Our strength can’t be that we think alike on everything; that would actually be a weakness. That would mean that once you become a Christian you would have to stop thinking and sign on the dotted line ascribing to everything everybody in the church believes in all matters both inside and outside the kingdom of God. Our strength has to be that we think alike on the issues that really matter — for instance, that the ultimate solution to all of our problems is Jesus — but there are varying ways to get to finding that out and there are varying ways to solve the practical problems we face in society — none of which will ultimately work.
A healthy faith community would be one where we can talk, discuss, disagree and even step on each other’s toes without getting bent out of shape or resenting each other. This is what we must all strive for. This will allow us to extend God’s grace to everyone — grace turned outward — not a sort of conditional grace to only those who think like us.
For further delving into this subject, I highly recommend listening to our interview with Keith Giles, author of Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb. I also highly recommend the book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church, by Gregory Boyd. These books would be great for a community to study and hammer these things out. And the process will never be over.