Agreement - is it really that important???
One thing I really love about the Bible is it didn't get the memo that we now have to be "PC" with everything we say. There are many awkward scriptures in there and whenever a Christian in the spotlight mentions one of these "not so PC" passages, others in the church seem to feel an overwhelming need to pull together their opinions and shout them as loudly as possible. The all to familiar mudslinging begins as we scramble to get our opinion out on social media etc. Accusations begin to fly, and sides are quickly chosen. Without realising it we have completely bought into the political game under the guise that we are somehow doing good by slamming those who dare to mention these awkward verses out loud. We publicly crucify each other in an effort to try and show the world that we r still "hip" and "cool" and "relatable." Even though we might mean well, we still send a message to the world that says, "hey look at us, we are a safe place to belong. We will show you how "safe" we are by brutally abandoning and verbally bashing anyone who dares rock our boat..." And then we scratch our heads and wonder why people find the church so unattractive at times...
Don't get me wrong, they love the light shows we can put on each week, and they love the idea of the God that we talk about, but the problem is, they don't like the people... The people are scary. When the brown sticky stuff hits the fan, the way we treat each other is REALLY scary.
So why is it that we as a church seem to revert to this kind of behaviour every time we get caught off guard and made to feel slightly uncomfortable??? Why is it that we feel this burning need to defend ourselves when we feel like we have been made to look bad???
I believe it ultimately comes back to an obsession with being right.
When we develop a need to be right we live in an incredibly dangerous way. This need will force us to prioritise agreement above love and honour. It will cause us to sacrifice connection on the alter of "correction." Relationship dies as a result and any influence that we once had into the lives of those around us evaporates into the night... All because we harbour a need to be right and hold a deep value for agreement.
If you live in NZ then you most likely would have heard of Pastor Brian Tamaki's comments recently. I'm not going to talk about whether I agree or disagree with his comments, what I am going to talk about is how poorly our culture can cope with disagreement. We have an insatiable desire for agreement that is tearing our society apart. When someone disagrees with something we believe, we don't know what to do with it, so it seems our cultural default has become to label it "hate-speech" and to begin the public flogging of the proposed hater.
The ability to make our own choices is incredibly precious and is something that even God fights to protect. Remember, He was the one who planted the tree we were NOT to eat from in the garden. Without that blessed tree we wouldn't have had the beauty of choice. He so values our freedom to choose that He even allows us freedom to make a choice that He disagrees with. Why? Because true love cannot exist outside of the complete freedom to choose.
I believe we need to renew our ability to see and appreciate the difference between love and agreement. They are two completely separate realities. In-fact, we often learn more about love when we choose to stay in connection with someone we disagree with.
One of the great misconceptions that today's culture has sold us is that in order to love someone you have to agree with them. On the flip side of that, it also says, "to disagree with someone is to hate them." It says, "when we disagree with me, you don't love me" which eventually becomes, "when you disagree with me you hate me."
This way of thinking believes that when someone disagrees with us we must fear them... and in fearing them, we begin to "demonise" them.
As my good friend and mentor, Rob Harris says, "When I put a wall of fear up, I can then de-humanise the person. Once I have de-humanised them I can then demonise them. Then I become the accuser and do the devils work for him."
We begin to see others as subhuman it leads us to one inevitable outcome; hate. We begin to hate them. Historically this has been how the church has dealt with pretty much most things/people that it disagrees with. This is how we were able to burn people at the stake and sleep at night, thinking we had somehow done Gods will... It's truly sickening what we are capable of doing when we "demonise" and "de-humanise" a person or people group.
Although we no longer burn people at the stake, it's clear to see the severity of our words and actions towards those we disagree with often achieves a similar outcome; death. We have simply replaced fire with burning accusations and public de-faming. When we burn someone on social media or in another public setting, we might think we are doing Gods work, we might think we are justified because we feel they are so clearly wrong... But hey, so did our ancestors who happily lowered the torch to the feet of those they disagreed with.
This way of thinking - asides from being completely insane - is also really sad as it only serves to limit the deep relationships that life is ultimately all about. Our value for agreement manifests in all its glory when these conflicts arise. We scramble to take sides and pick up our stones ready to launch them at the first sign of disagreement. The reality is we will never fully agree with anyone. I think God made it that way. When we are faced with disagreement we have to choose to love the person over what they think or do - this opportunity should be considered a gift!
In other words, we get to choose to love them for who they are over what they choose to do.
These recent events in our national story have highlighted our weakness as a church to deal with disagreement. They have also brought to the forefront the ongoing discussion about homosexuality and our stance as christians.
Here's the deal, I don't agree with homosexuality. I don't agree with the LGBT community. I don't think this is a controversial subject in scripture because I think scripture is incredibly clear on it. But since when does me disagreeing with it actually matter?!?! The only reason this is offensive in our culture is because we have made agreement and love synonymous.
I disagree with my children's choices, usually more than once a day, does this mean I hate them? Absolutely not! I love them and love the fact that they feel the freedom to make their own choices, even if they are choices I don't agree with. I don't agree with the choices of the LGBT community when it comes to certain issues... Does that mean I hate the Gay or the Lesbian? Heck no! I disagree with Destiny Church on certain issues, does that mean I hate the church or its leaders? No way!
We are allowed to disagree. When we separate love and agreement we are free to fully love the person while we disagree with their choices.
Jesus didn't agree with the lifestyle of prostitutes or tax collectors but He was found hanging out with them. When Jesus was faced with disagreement He didn't slander them or separate Himself from them, He didn't argue with them or even try to change them... what did He do then? He simply exposed them to love. He got involved, He got connected, He cared, spent time, listened, enjoyed, and loved. When people got to know Him they wanted to be like Him, He was just that attractive!
The original disagreement happened in the garden of Eden. God Himself placed the tree that He didn't want us to eat from in the garden. Why? Because He so values our ability to choose.
When we chose to do the very thing that He told us not to - eat the apple - did that change His love for us? Did He suddenly hate us? Of course not! He disagreed with our choice but He was still head-over-heels in love with us! His love didn't change then and it sure as heck doesn't change today when you choose to do something that He doesn't agree with. As Christians we believe He is transforming us into His likeness - the likeness of our Father. So it is part of our inherited nature to love those around us when we disagree with them.
The golden question then is - What is it meant to look like when we disagree? How should we treat each other?
Almost everyone, whether Christian or not, has heard the beautiful passage from 1 Corinthians 13 about love. What if we treated those with whom we disagreed, with this kind of love? Imagine what the world would look like! What if we were patient, kind, honouring, selfless, calm, and forgiving towards those we disagreed with? What if we chose to protect those we disagreed with - even from our own opinions... Selah.
I think things would look dramatically different to say the least... So how about we try something different for a change and give it a go!
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
I want to finish with a note to the church and a note to the LGBT community.
To the Church: When one of our own says something you find scary, unpopular, or that you disagree with, you don't have to pick a side. You don't have to shout your opinion, or throw an accusation. The Bible has some awkward scriptures in there, they aren't PC and they aren't popular with the rest of the world, that's ok. Remember those scriptures are for you, don't try and force them on anybody else. Jesus didn't slam people with scriptures, He simply exposed them to love. The only thing we need to say in response to awkward moments like these is; "just because we disagree does not mean we don't love you. We might not agree with your choices but we bless your ability to make your own choices. If you choose different to us, we love you. If you choose the same as us, we love you. What ever you choose, we love you. Why? Because we don't love you because of what you do, we love you because of who you are: an intrinsically valuable person in the story of the universe."
To the LGBT community I would say this: please don't make the same mistake we in the church have made over and over and over again. Please don't confuse disagreement for hate. I know it's incredibly scary when someone disagrees with something so close to your heart, but it has been a joy for me to trust people through that fear and believe that though they disagree with me, they still love me. We in the church have not disagreed well... We struggle to disagree well within our own community, let-alone with those outside of it. For this I am sorry. We are learning to love others above what they choose (some of us are taking a little longer than others sorry) but it would benefit you greatly to learn from our weaknesses... Not allowing those around you to disagree with you only leads to separation and disconnection. Living like this leaves us lonely and isolated. (Trust me, we in the church have been experts in this for a loooong time!)