I hope that this Sunday Morning Update finds you healthy and happy, wherever you may be. We had a great day of worship this week here at First Covenant, so I hope that you were able to take the time to worship with people as well.
You may be reading this a bit early this week, because I’m writing it early this week. See, I just finished up teaching my Logic and Critical Thinking class at Spoon River College this week, so I’m going off on a two-week vacation, starting Monday... and I wanted to get this written and posted before we left.
Incidentally, my wife and children always come with me for the day of my Final Exam in class, so that we can all grab lunch together and then visit Dickson Mounds Museum (and since Illinois keeps flirting with possibly closing some of its museums to try to get a handle on our rampant spending, we never know if this year will be the last time that Dickson Mounds will be open). It’s kind of funny, but almost every year, somebody asks my wife if she can ever win an argument with me. I’m not sure what that indicates about what I’m teaching the classes (Wendy thinks that they’re trying to compliment me, though I’m not buying it), but my wife’s response is almost always the same: “Yes... when he’s wrong...”
See, I like being thought of as “right” as much as the next guy, but it’s far more important to me to be right than it is to be declared right. When I’m wrong, I certainly don’t enjoy it, but I always try to admit it, since the whole reason that I get into any argument in the first place is so that correctness can be clarified and highlighted. If it’s me being correct, then great. If it’s the other person being correct, then I absolutely want to admit that I was wrong and join them in their correct conclusions (though I may cry a little).
We talked a little bit about that in our message this week, looking at Romans 15. To Paul -- the consummate Scriptural arguer -- though correct doctrine is crucially important to understand and to teach to those around us, it pales in comparison to the importance of building a healthy community with other believers. It’s far more important to be right in how we live alongside our brothers and sisters than it is to be declared right because we won this argument or that one against them.
When it comes down to it, any sub-group in the secular world will define itself by what it’s not, by what it hates. The Body of Christ should define itself by what it is, by what it loves. They’d know that we’re Christians not by our angry placards, but by our love -- for one another, and for those whom we’re trying to save.
So when Paul calls us to live out a spirit of unity, he’s talking about neither a forced uniformity where everyone has to agree with the dominant voices, nor a vapid openness where no one is ever challenged because no one ever wants to offend. What he’s calling us to is to be loving and respectful, even when we come at things from mutually exclusive angles -- to be agreeable, even when we don’t agree.
1) Do you find yourself disconnected from a brother or a sister... or the church family at large? Is that entirely their fault?
2) Do you find yourself defining yourself more by whom you’re against than by whom you’re for?
3) Do you find yourself arguing a lot with people? Do they tend to appreciate your heart, or do they tend to leave the room?
Stop and think about whether you’re more about bringing people together to draw closer to the Lord, or about figuring out where the walls of division should be clearly marked off... and then ask yourself, “How do I define being a Christian?” and then, “How do I live that out more actively this week...?”