Last week a nationally-recognized pastor posted comments that were insensitive and unwise. Later, a nationally recognized blogger labeled the pastor with an unflattering name and suggested readers contact the pastor’s church to complain about his actions. In the borough of the blogsophere where I live, it was a pretty big deal.
On Thursday I decided I would try to start my own controversy by wondering out loud why North American Christians seem to be incapable of raising the dead. No one noticed, but these events were related. If the connection seems too subtle, here it is--written plain: the North American church finds itself largely powerless because we are so mean to one another. We have lost sight of what it means to honor one another.
The nationally-recognized blogger is someone whom I’ve never met, but is deserving of honor. This blogger has written one fine book and undoubtedly will write plenty more. The nationally recognized pastor is someone whom I’ve never met, but is deserving of honor. This pastor reaches thousands of people I could never reach. They both have the goods. They both love Jesus. They both deserve respect. The two of them are brother and sister, and I think Dad isn’t happy when his kids fight publicly.
There is room for disagreement within the body of Christ. When Christians work through disagreement with grace and truth it can be an example to the watching world of how the two can walk hand in hand. We owe it to one another to speak the truth in love. If our words are not the truth, then they are not really loving; if our words are not loving, then they are not really the truth. When we walk with both grace and truth we walk in maturity.
We need to examine the connection between lack of honor and lack of power within the church. Consider these words from Holy Spirit:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4: 29-32)
Hidden in the middle of this passage is an important truth: we do not grieve the Holy Spirit by our doctrines or opinions, but by how we speak to one another. When I speak poorly of my brother or sister, I hurt God’s feelings. Is it too hard it imagine that when we grieve the Holy Spirit he says, “I’m outta here?”
Our western world is word-weary, and the path to their hearts packed hard with the weight of argument after argument. Arguments are easy because everyone thinks they are right--otherwise, why argue? Honor is difficult because it forces us to find practical ways to live out the verse, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Pastors and writers have this in common: where there is a multitude of words transgression is unavoidable. It’s going to happen. It comes with job, and it comes through our frailty. The larger question is, do we have grace for one another?
Last week’s dust-up is one of many, too common among brothers and sisters. Wait a week and there will be another. And another. Meanwhile the world is waiting for us to raise the dead.