When it comes to “oneness” and “unity,” as I’ve mentioned, there have been mile markers that have served to tweak and forge my views. In recent posts I mentioned such things as:
- For a people who preach unity we are quite divided
- If to be united we have to believe and do the same things, no one has “the definitive list.”
- God embraces believers who, in their sincere quest to please Him, fail to follow some of the rules
- Our approach to 2nd John 9 has been a source of division.
Each of these points played a part in my shift from what I now believe to have been a fear-based, rule-focused, “get it all right” posture, to one of sound Biblical reasoning, love and freedom.
Another event that made me look closer at things occurred in the early days of September 2005. Hurricane Katrina had just devastated the Louisiana Coastland. The city of Collierville, where we were living at the time, was receiving some of the displaced citizens from New Orleans at the Town Square. Several of our members showed interest in going there as a church to reach out, extend love and to volunteer our services. So one Sunday afternoon we met at the building – there were probably about 15 of us. We were on our way out the door when my cell phone rang. It was one of the leaders. Instead of coming to the building and speaking with us, he chose to call me to express his concern over the “other churches” in the area that would be there with us. What that meant was, because they didn’t have “our list” we were to forgo the effort. So I relayed the message to the folks. Seeing their puzzled, disappointed faces we then dispersed to our homes. That was the end of that.
Looking back there was a problem – a big problem. The issue wasn’t with the attitude of the leader who called – he was an honest, good-willed servant of Jesus. He loved the church, lived a conscientious life and genuinely wanted to do right. The problem, I believe, was not so much with the person as it was the paradigm. He lived from, as I did at the time, a posture of fear. It’s a perspective that stifles believers from manifesting the heart of God and such must be avoided. It’s an attitude of you better not make a mistake. It’s a position that misses, in my judgment, the very heart of the Gospel. James wrote: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (Ja. 2:13) What that means is, mercy always takes the high ground; if you’re going to err, err on the side of showing kindness. We had to forgo showing mercy and kindness for fear that we were going to associate with other Christians who had a “different list.” Very sad.
Friends, this unbiblical approach not only undercuts our efforts at compassion, but it’s also a posture that lends itself to making Christians so afraid of doing something wrong that they are more comfortable doing nothing at all. Think about that. What if that would have been the way that Hezekiah approached serving God? He doubtlessly would have put a stop to that whole Passover situation (2 Chron. 30:17-20), would he not? Instead, however, he hoped that since the hearts of the people were seeking God they would be blessed and rewarded even if they did it imperfectly. And they were! Let that sink in. Part of “preaching the Gospel” friends, and a key to unity, is in our being fair (and Biblical) in our representation of the character of God. Mercy takes the high ground. More to come.
You are loved!