By Steve Brown
Christians are divided over just about everything. Yet we should stand with our friends…regardless.
It’s an important truism: Convictions, by their very nature, cause division. The only people who fight are people who believe that there is something to fight about.
Therefore those of us who are convinced as conservative evangelicals, as Calvinists, as Armenians, as Dispensationalists, etc. must be very careful that the hills we die on are the same hills God would have us die on. There is a difference between a hill God would have us die on and a hill God would, as it were, want us have a picnic on. The trick is to know the difference between the two.
We in the church so often fall short of Jesus’ commandment to love one another. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
How do you know which hill is worth dying on or, better yet, which hill God would call you to fight and to die on? I’m not sure I have all the answers to that question. In fact, I’m not sure I have very many answers at all. Maybe one day I’ll speak from Sinai…and should you contradict me, we’ll have a war.
That’s the problem, isn’t it? We sin because we’re sinners and, because we’re sinners, we fight with our brothers and sisters in Christ. But what are the particular sins that play into wars among Christians?
I’ll name my sins in this area and, if you can identify, then you might repent and become a spiritual giant like me. Sorry… The Holy Spirit just reminded me that, while I’m more aware of my sins than I was, I haven’t been fixed yet. So let me confess some things to you. Maybe we can be guilty together.
I Love to be Right
I love to be right. I love to win arguments and to be proven right. My favorite phrase is, “I told you so.” I use it as often as I possibly can. And it’s not just in the areas of doctrine and theology…it’s about everything.
One time I drove 20 miles in the wrong direction just so I wouldn’t have to admit to my wife that I was lost. I guess I thought that if I drove fast enough in the wrong direction, it would become the right direction. (Let me teach you something about driving and life…Making really good time in the wrong direction doesn’t change the fact that it’s the wrong direction.)
There is an early church fight in Acts 15. (Contrary to popular opinion, the early Christians were sinners too.) It’s the first major church gathering dealing with a major division in the church. At the end of that account, Luke makes a quite puzzling statement, “And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other” (v. 39). It turned out that both Paul and Barnabas were right in their convictions because God honored both of them. The world is big enough for both of them to be right and to be wrong.
I Love to be Self-Righteous
I love to be self-righteous. Self-righteousness is a wonderful drug and I’m addicted. I think pharisees are killing the church and their legalism is destroying Christians’ joy. I believe that their arrogance and false purity are abominations directly from the pit of hell. And you have no idea how good it makes me feel to say that.
Self-righteousness is a wonderful drug and I’m addicted.
Jesus said (and by the way, he wasn’t telling us to be mindless or to never make judgments), “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Jesus was saying that we have to be very careful because there is so much in us that tends toward self-righteousness.
All in God’s Name
I love to be right and righteous…in God’s name. If I can baptize my self-righteousness and my need to be right then I can become a mighty warrior for him. Pagans fight because they like to be right and righteous. We fight because we like to be right and righteous in God’s name.
Jesus said to the most religiously committed people of his time, the people who had major (and most of the time) proper convictions, “You also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28). On another occasion, Jesus said that if our goodness didn’t exceed theirs (and they were really good), we couldn’t even get into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
The Answer is Jesus
Then how do we love? The answer is Jesus. The closer we are to him, the closer we are to one another. The more we are loved and forgiven, the easier it is to love and forgive. The more we see him in all of his glory and power, the less important our glory and power. The more we worship him as King, the less need we have to rule. It is not about me (and that’s my problem)…it is about him.
Yes, convictions are very important. Truth does divide and taking a stand is often a judgment of stands taken by others. The eternal verities of the Christian faith are absolute and should never be compromised.
There are some hills on which we should die.
But there are also hills that weren’t meant for battles.
How do you know the difference? Just ask me and I’ll tell you! But in case you aren’t about to do that, let me tell you how.
If you really don’t care whether you are right or wrong but only care for God’s truth…if you aren’t prideful about being right…and if you refuse to baptize your views and do battle in the name of Jesus…then you’ll know.
Time to Draw Away
Read 1 Corinthians 13 & John 15:9-17
What hills have you died on that you really shouldn’t have? What was the result and how did it impact those relationships? We’re all tempted in the direction of being right and self-righteous in God’s name. But there is great power in giving it up. God loves you. And love has a way of changing you…and them.