Christians Behaving Badly

As so often happens . . . different parts of life have merged to focus my attention on something in particular this morning. First I read an OpEd piece in Christianity Today by David Aikman, entitled "Attack Dogs of Christendom." I don't think they have it posted on their website yet, but here's a quote:

"Lashing out in public at fellow Christians is objectionable--especially when the Christian influence on contemporary culture today is so weakened. No attribute of civilized life seems more under attack that civility. If Christians blast each other from here to eternity...where on earth is the witness that brings grace and savor to our crumbling civilization? Where is the gentleness, modesty, and wisdom wth which we are supposed to shame those who mock and accuse the Body of Christ from the outside? Christians should set an example. By all means, criticize fellow Christians if necessary, but do so with grace."

Almost immediately after reading the above, a friend in a totally unrelated email exchange told me about a series of posters attacking the Emergent movement. You can see them here.

These posters are supposed to be funny I suppose, but it reeks of school yard bullying . . . just the kind of thing people who hate Christianity love to see us do.

I’m not concerned today with whether there’s a legitimate problem with the Emergent church. Today I want to know why so many Christians think being right gives us license to be harsh. And why are we hardest on each other? Imagine if a Christian decided to publish similar "funny" posters with Judaism as his target, or homosexuality, or something else he deems incorrect or sinful. Only anti-Semites and bigots would be laughing. So what kind of person laughs at these Emergent posters?

Unfortunately, you can find this kind of attack all over the web, operating under the guise of “standing up for correct doctrine.” For example, look around this site for a few minutes and you’ll learn Rick Warren and Billy Graham are “apostates” (and you’ll find a whole lot more over-the-top anger at Emergents). Google for yourself to find similar sites bashing everyone for false doctrine from C. S. Lewis to Elizabeth Elliot, wife of Jim Elliot, the famous martyred missionary, and (gasp!) an Episcopalian. Now imagine you’re a seeker looking into Christianity, and someone shows this stuff to you.
Of course, it's not like this is a new problem. Consider these words by an early church father:

“The devil has striven against the truth in manifold ways. He has sometimes endeavored to destroy it by defending it.” (Tertulian, Against Praxeas)

For some clarifying perspective on how to handle in-house disagreements, I found a ready-made list of verses at this blog:

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush to evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. - Proverbs 6:16-19

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father just as you are in me and I am in you… I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one and we are one… May they be brought in complete unity to let the world know that you sent me. - John 17:20-23

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. - 1 Corinthians 1:10

Is Christ divided? - 1 Corinthians 1:13

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:3

Here's one final verse to keep in mind when we are certain we are right and someone else is all wrong about a doctrine:

If I . . . can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but have not love, I am nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:2

Posted byAthol Dickson at 10:19 AM  


Kay said... August 9, 2007 at 4:43 PM  

I agree that we need to show grace amongst ourselves. How can we expect anyone else to respect us or our beliefs when we act as nasty as the world?
They should recognize us by our love.
On the other hand, we are to have discernment and be on guard against false teachers. But when we find them, I don't believe we are supposed to publicly thrash them.
And that discernment needs to be Spirit directed. I grew up in a church that bashed anyone who was not of our exact branch of our denomination. That is not of the Spirit, clearly.
I guess that is what is lacking over all. People moving in the Spirit and speaking with His guidance. These hateful things certainly wouldn't happen if they were.

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