Right about Everything

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Christians go to war with each other over the dumbest things.

Church consultant Thom Rainier has seen it all.  There are the usual hot button issues, such as disagreements over the ideal temperature in the sanctuary, the right color of carpeting, and the most God-honoring order of worship. 

Then there are the issues that defy imagination. 

One congregation fought over which picture of Jesus to hang in the foyer (Rainier playfully asked who had snapped the pictures).  An argument ensued in another church when it was discovered that the budget was off by ten cents.  The tension was finally resolved when someone contributed a dime.  At another congregation, a handful of members angrily left when the committee preparing the Sunday morning coffee switched to a stronger blend.  At still another place there was a battle concerning deviled eggs:  Should such Satanic items be allowed at a church potluck?

Somewhere along the line, a great many people began to believe it’s important to attend the Church that is Right About Everything. 

All too often, that’s the impression that sticks with outsiders when they check out local churches. 

Congregations have taken stands on how much water is required for baptism; how often the Lord’s Supper should be served; what version of the Bible is Holy Spirit-approved; who, in a secular culture, has the right to get married; who should serve on the Supreme Court; and whether Christians have a divine exemption from wearing masks during a pandemic. 

What’s interesting is that not one of these issues is addressed directly on the pages of Scripture.

But there’s another set of expectations for people who aim to imitate Christ.  They are all plainly stated in the Bible.  And they aren’t controversial at all. 

What might it look like to follow Jesus?

At the end of his monumental, 889-page scholarly introduction to the New Testament, N.T. Wright suggests that what we have inherited is “a new way of relating to one another, a way of kindness, a way that accepts the fact of anger but refuses to allow it to dictate the terms of engagement.”  Since Jesus’ death accomplished our forgiveness, we must pass that on to each other.  “We must become, must be known as, the people who don’t hold grudges, who don’t sulk.  We must be the people who know how to say ‘Sorry,’ and who know what to do when other people say it to us.”

Can you imagine what it would be like if the first thing people associated with Christians was, “Oh, those are the people who don’t sulk and whine”? 

We are called to be the people who always show hospitality.  Who serve the poor. 

Who give away money cheerfully.  Who remember that in a God-supervised world, there are no grounds for feeling anxious.

God’s directive is that we should be gracious with each other concerning issues that don’t really matter. 

We must stand up for those who have been unjustly treated.  But never take private vengeance.  And always show compassion to those who are hurting.

British author and social critic G.K. Chesterton once quipped, “Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting.  It’s been found difficult and not tried.” It’s actually rather straightforward to understand the kind of life to which we are called.  Powered by the indwelling gift of God’s Spirit, we are to be the joyful, non-anxious, generous, patient, outward-focused, kind-hearted people in our families and communities. 

We will stand out, in other words, not because we are so miserably Right About Everything.

But simply because we love each other.  Including those who don’t love us back. 

Which is something to ponder in the days ahead over some strong cups of coffee and a few deviled eggs.