We’re living in a time when there are lots of challenges to long held presumed positions on a whole range of subjects, both theological and ethical. How do we navigate our way through these things without losing friends or creating toxic communities. Is it possible? The question I would like to ask is this. What sort of community do we want to be?
I see two extremes.
On one hand I see communities that become narrower and narrower. In their pursuit of purity and truth reject anything and everything that doesn’t align with their position. People used to kill one another because they disagreed on doctrinal issues.
The other extreme is that we become a community with every new idea is taken on board. There are no filters, no lines, no boundaries. That’s not healthy either.
This is what I believe we should be striving for:
A mature body. The apostle Paul had a desire, a goal, to present everyone mature, fully grown. As leaders that should also be our goal.
As a movement we’re over 30 years old. Many churches in the network have been around even longer. We’re middle-aged. There are many mature Christians in our churches. We have access these days to all sorts of influences, podcasts, TV broadcasts, books, seminars, conferences espousing a range of opinions on all sorts of things.
As leaders we are not the theology police.
We need to be comfortable holding difference. When a child is young it’s important to bring strong patterning. As a parent, there were times when I would say [sometimes] in response to ‘why do we have to do that’, ‘because I said so’. Today, there are churches like that. I don’t want to be one of them……
A discerning community. The Anabaptists practised, what we now call, ‘community hermeneutics’. Together they would read Scripture, discuss, challenge and discern the mind of Christ on issues. We need to develop our community discernment. We need to be discerning about what will serve our community well and what could damage it. What issues if we absorb them will damage the body? What issues will cause us to flourish? What is of ‘first importance’? What is secondary?
John Wesley is credited as saying, ‘In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.’
For me I am increasingly returning to ancient and long held wisdom. The Nicene Creed was probably the earliest statement of Christian belief. And what is of first importance.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
A gracious community.
How do we handle difference? How do love when we don’t agree? This isn’t a new problem.
38“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
We need to hold our opinions lightly. We always need to lead with love. That’s our front foot. We need to listen to each. To understand each other’s journey. To know each other’s story.
That’s the sort of community I want to be part of.