Recently, I have been writing a lot about unity in the Church.
Something I haven’t really written about yet are the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional skills necessary to pursue unity. This article is my first attempt. I’ll dive into this much deeper in my coming book. In the meantime allow me to ask a simple question.
Do you practice the discipline of correction?
The Church is divided on many issues of doctrine, race, politics, social status, and methodology. We’re also divided on personal issues and wounds, which could also be aided by the discipline of correction as well. Really, I could break that down much more but you get the idea.
Are we going to agree on every small issue? Is that necessary to achieve unity? No. There really are battles not worthy of an argument.
Is it necessary to break the lie that it is acceptable to “agree to disagree” within the Church on issues or beliefs vital to our church or community? Yes.
Relationship is the key.
Too often we hunt down people on social media whom we have little to no relationship, only to criticize their views. At the same time, we ignore the person or group in our church, ministry, or community that could benefit from a humble interaction aimed at mending the divisions that cause our lack of unity.
We need to consider that our personal view, even if correct, is incomplete. It would be wise to also consider that the individual or group who “belongs” to another theological or ideological camp has something valuable for you to learn from them.
Are there bad doctrines out there? Yes.
Are there outright heresies out there? Yes.
Are there evident wounds which will require more work than a simple apology or discussion? Yes.
While those things are true, our pursuit to expose others often outweighs our desire to restore.
Let me remind us of a better way.
Patience and humility do a better job of tearing down false ideas than does open debate and rebuke. I’m not saying there is never a time for those things, but I think it is safe to say that as a culture we’ve gotten carried away. If I possess the boldness to preach truth without compromise or concession but lack the ability to be corrected regarding my most cherished beliefs, that which I possess is not boldness but pride.
Jesus has some deeply held views of His own about pride.
If we can learn to receive and give correction with humility and respect, we’ll also have no problem with boldness.
For instance, we often have very strong opinions on controversial subjects. Speaking passionately about something that we’re deeply convicted and convinced about is good. We need to be people who hold the line on important matters.
At the same time, we will also need to be corrected, sometimes often, regarding our thinking on some of these same controversial subjects. Do not regret speaking with boldness and clarity on those issues of which you were in error. The opportunity to be corrected rarely visits those who lack boldness.
When boldness and meekness work together, our opportunities to learn, grow, and overcome offense become much greater.
Do we approach correcting others with the mindset of restoration or condemnation?
When someone tells you, “You’re wrong,” how do you respond? The truth defends itself. If we seek truth instead of argument, we will eventually find the truth and find that it is certainly, most definitely, beyond a shadow of doubt, fully intact. And it is the truth that sets us free.
-J. S. Marek