In my study of 1 Corinthians, I came across this quote by David Prior,
Whenever Christians give their allegiance to any human personality, such as a gifted preacher or pastor, they have taken their eyes off Jesus Christ and there will inevitably be disunity (source).If Prior is correct (and I believe he is), it's no wonder there is so much fighting among Christians. My pastor recently gave an excellent sermon on disagreements within the church. (His advice is well-taken.) All of this reading and listening has led me to ponder how we, as the Body of Christ, chew each other up in our attempts to be theologically correct. I confess I have done my share of looking down my nose at those who don't agree with me. And while I agree with J. Gresham Machen who said, "Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith", I wonder if we don't take our concern that we may be indifferent to the extreme.
I've meditated and prayed over this, and the Lord brought to mind the example of a well-known and respected minister who took in another after he was called out in his denomination. The former offered the latter a safe place to be mentored, counseled, and held accountable. This, this is a picture of the gospel. If he disagreed with the offending minister, I don't believe he ever stated so publicly. He took some hits for his actions because there were many who couldn't believe he would do such a thing; they argued he was colluding to cover the sin. It seems that rebuke is not genuine unless it is made public.
What your eyes have seen
do not hastily bring into court,
for what will you do in the end,
when your neighbor puts you to shame?
- Proverbs 25:7-8 (ESV)
With all the social media platforms out there, it's incredibly easy to bring someone before the court of public opinion. We often do so without thinking. Meanwhile our neighbors - believers and unbelievers alike - are watching. How long will it be until they put us to shame by bringing us before that same unforgiving court?
In his book Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, Michael Horton discusses the cultural evolution of ambition from a vice to a virtue. The church has not been immune to this change. In fact, Horton argues, our drive to achieve notoriety within our churches causes us to focus on self and pulls us away from our brothers and sisters, something the New Testament writers warn against (see James 3:13-18; 1 Cor. 12:15-26)
This isn't every person for himself, but all for one and one for all: Christ for us and then us for each other. It may not make any sense to people around us, but when a brother or sister falls down, we do not keep running, much less demean them, but turn back to pick the person up. If necessary, we carry him or her to the finish line...'Above all,' Peter exhorts, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins' (1 Pet 4:8). Peter isn't saying that our loving acts atone for sin. Far from it! Peter's astonishing point is that love hides the faults of others rather than making a spectacle of them. (Horton, 92)
I was reminded of this recently. A friend of mine is a member of a church led by a pastor whom many consider controversial. I knew the swirling storm was hurtful to her; she has been wounded by people seeking to wound her pastor. I contacted to her express my sympathy for her pain. I don't know her pastor or anything about him, really. I do know my friend, and I ached for her. She was grateful to have someone reach out to her and although I didn't ask her about it, she told me what she has witnessed. Her reply reminded me that it's nearly impossible to see the full truth for the mud slung in a media (or social media) frenzy. And underneath all that mud is a church of believers splattered in the cross-fire. There are family members dirtied simply for standing beside their loved one. There is a person in need of a Savior.
And so am I.