One of the attributes I like best about God is His good will. We never read of Jesus telling anyone to go away. Jesus never rebukes anyone for asking Him questions, not even those with spurious motives. The apostles James writes that God will generously give wisdom to all who ask. (James 1:5) He helps us out later in chapter three by pointing out that godly wisdom will produce very different emotions in our hearts versus "earthly, unspiritual, denomic" wisdom which springs from selfish ambition and envy.
Wisdom from God will produce minds that are "peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere". Who doesn't want that? Who doesn't want to hang out with people who exhibit this kind of fruit? Who doesn't want to be that kind of person?
In church yesterday, our pastor wisely admitted that he doesn't have all the answers to all the questions about the Christian faith and life. He came right out and asked for a show of hands for everyone who had ever been dissatisfied with the teaching of a church before. Everyone lifted a hand. He asked if anyone was ever dissatisfied with teaching at our church. No one raised a hand, out of love for our pastor and congregation, but he laughed out loud and told us it was okay to admit it. (A friend of mine pushed my hand up in the air at this point! ;-)
He went on to tell us that really, it was OKAY. Unity of the Spirit doesn't mean complete agreement on every issue of faith and doctrine. Unity of the Spirit comes when we love God and let him love people through us. Unity of the Spirit is NOT the same as agreeing to share the same doctrinal ideas and parroting the same party line about (insert issue here).
I really needed to be reminded that Jesus has made me accepted in the beloved, because sometimes there are other "beloved" who make it pretty plain to me that they are not very happy about me. I am so grateful to have found a place where there is truly room for as many as the Lord our God shall call. We do not have to agree on anything beyond Jesus and the gospel of grace.
Questions are not only welcomed but encouraged, both publicly (it's a small church, so people are invited to speak up during church, when our pastor sees they are bursting to talk) and privately. He might even have a few questions for you now and then. But like the Savior himself, pastor starts with a presumption of good will. People respond with the same determination to "accept one another" in spite of disagreeing with each other on things that are important to us as individuals. (Romans 14:1-5)
I love this so much about my little church, because it is so rare. I can't tell you how many times I have been pushed out and excluded for asking questions people are uncomfortable with and/or for which they don't have good answers. Lots of times I have experienced the unsettling reality that there is no room at the inn for people who think and question. Ostracization is the fall back for not being able to answer questions, usually with some name-calling and finger-pointing to get the process started.
Mostly the name-calling/finger-pointing is behind the scenes, as challenging anyone openly leaves the challenger at risk for their true intentions being exposed. I have had emergency meetings called to exclude me from home school circles. I have endured contemporary American versions of mini-inquisitions called merely to let me know I am hated by my fellow disciples. Blogs have shut down in the hopes of making sure my questions don't infect other Christians. We can't have people thinking too deeply now, can we?
Last night I saw that the same thing I have experienced so many times is happening to other Christians I love and respect. A sweet, gentle, tender-hearted and compassionate woman of God is accused of being "antinomian". This is a scurrilous charge brought up often to discredit people who rely on and emphasize the grace of God. It's true meaning is akin to hedonism or anarchy, and anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with this woman's writing knows that nothing could be farther from the truth. Her caution about crossing the line into sin, her constant checking of herself lest she also be tempted (Galatians 6:1) is admirable and evident to all. The attacks on her character and theology are just more wicked envy bearing fruit in her agressors' hearts.
Similarly, theologian Gregory A. Boyd has a blog post up today. A fellow believer he has debated many times has taken to outright lying about what Greg believes and proposes as truth, because it's the only way to discredit the man. Mr. Boyd appears to be amused by this, but I am not amused. It's an ugly reality in Christendom that breaks my heart and would turn me completely away from Christianity if it weren't for the reality of Jesus. Selfish ambition is a prime motivation of many ministries. Lying, name calling, misrepresenting others in unflattering ways- for way too many Christians this is the way to build their own little kingdoms on earth.
I have full confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit to see my fellow believers safely through this life and into the next. But I am not naive enough to think it will be easy. Hate hurts. It hurts no less when the hater signs off with "Love in Christ".
The theologian I have every confidence will weather this new attack on his ideas. He seemed amused even, that a person he had known for so long and debated so often could still misrepresent his position. I don't find it so funny, because I don't believe it is accidental or merely fuzzy-headed. I have overcome more than one knife wound to the back from a Christian brother and sister, so I find it hard to buy the innocent mistake theory.
I fear more for the author of tender heart. As a devout and sincere believer, I think she underestimates the depth of the hatred and selfish ambition in the hearts of so many so-called "ministers" of the faith. Her book directly threatens other folks market base. That is where the rubber meets the road for the people who find not only their self-worth in "ministry" but also their future worldly needs provided by "ministry". The malice and fear in their hearts can not be overestimated.
As for me? Nothing can shake me from my faith in Jesus. I have experienced His grace and love. It is an objective reality. Being excluded and reviled by other Christians has absolutely no bearing on the reality of Jesus. It does make it harder to put into practice the command of Jesus to love my fellow disciples. But believing in the incarnation of Christ in me, the hope of glory, I am trusting in Jesus to bring that perfect love to pass in me in the fullness of times.
In the meantime, I am content to hang out here in the stable with Mary and the shepherds. In the meantime, I am content to go outside the camp with Jesus (Hebrews 13:13) and chill with Him. While here, I will remember to pray for others who are being excluded that they too will enjoy the presence of the Living God and relax in His bountiful grace. Sharing in his sufferings, we also share in his glory. In the end, it's all good. =)