Dear Church, Let’s Stop Being Mean

Why is it that Christians so often act like mean girls?

There is so much nitpicking, so much criticism, so much arrogance and impatience within the church as a whole.  It’s like group regression to Junior High cafeteria who-sits-with-who.  We are so busy being upset with each other.  All the time.  It’s kind of a full time occupation, observing the faults of others within the first world church.  We are so insufferably…superior… over the lack of homogenization between denominations and families.  It’s like, the only thing we can agree on.  That everybody else has got it wrong.

I speak from no pedestal of immunity.  So much of my life has been wasted comparing, and criticizing, and being kind of obnoxious.  I’m sorry.

Can we stop with the fighting, already?  The mean girl behavior?  The discord?

Listen, I’m as guilty as anyone else of looking at the differences with narrowed eyes.  I get it.  I do.  Different is hard.  Different is scary.  But is different really bad?  Because that’s how we treat it.

There is only one thing that overrules every difference in culture, upbringing, occupation, life circumstance, or denomination.  Jesus.  He brings unity to the equation.  And oh, who isn’t parched for unity – the ability to come together different-yet-one, find a seat at the family table, and both celebrate and grieve in community?  That is the ideal function of the church as a whole.  Doesn’t it sound glorious?

Jesus is the what and the Who we all have in common.  From the deserts of Africa to the rice paddies in China to the McMansion in the ‘burbs to the sleek apartment in Uptown to the cabin in the sticks, we have one bond that ties us, irrevocably, to one another.  (That cabin in the sticks…that would be mine.  Town girl married country boy.  Different…yet one.)

We Christians are more alike than we are different, because we have the same blood thudding through our bodies, the same name tattooed on our hearts, the same Spirit within us.  We can be different in every other way, but if we have Jesus, nothing else needs to matter.  We can be unified as a body because we are united in Him.

Jesus is the common denominator.

It’s time we stop with the cat-fighting and the hair-pulling and the name-calling.  And the social media fighting.  #bekind. @jesus

There are issues.  Real issues, ones we can’t sweep under the rug, ones we can’t hide from and shouldn’t ignore.  I’m not saying we all just go into group hug mode and hold hands and sing campfire songs.  Yes, we need to have those conversations.  We need to hold each other accountable and hold each other up.  Sometimes, hard things need saying.  Every family has the need for a good sit-down from time to time, and the church is no different.

I agree, we as a church have issues.

But can we set those aside (not forever, you understand, but just long enough) to look one another in the eyes and say, “YOU are not the enemy.  We are family.  We are brothers and sisters, and whatever else happens, FAMILY STICKS TOGETHER.”

We are family, you know.

The Messianic Jews and the born-again Catholics and the die-hard Calvinists and the zealous Assembly-of-God-ers and the sober Baptists.  And everyone in between.  Jesus Christ is the connective tissue that binds us together, and love is our antidote to permanent injury.  The blood of a crucified Man flows through all our veins, and isn’t that enough to break down the dividing walls between us and forge unity? (Ephesians 2:14)

We don’t worship the same way, but we worship the same Who.

Isn’t that enough to coagulate us?

Listen, y’all: hands are not feet are not elbows.  We have diversity of culture, personality, and resources.  Can we just get over the “your way” and “my way” and get on with “His way”?  I am so done with infighting and backstabbing and snarkiness.  (My own snarkiness first and foremost.  Sick of it.)  Rupertus Meldenius said it best: “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”¹

Stand to the death on what really matters.  Hold the line and hold the light.  Do it for love and do it in love, but don’t waffle.

There are plenty of things, like the deity of Christ, sole path to salvation, and social matters of injustice, abortion, and the homosexual marriage issue that we dare not compromise.  We must be clear as Scripture is clear, and we must be kind as Jesus is kind.  We don’t need to choose between speaking truth or speaking love; we must speak both.  (Ephesians 4:15).

But there is a whole big world of preference and personal conviction that we just don’t need to tackle.  It’s not our job to police the little nitpicky stuff; it’s the Holy Spirit’s job.  So you don’t like the way she dresses or the cigarettes he smokes or the worship songs they sing or the Bible translation they’re using.

Have some charity, already.  Maybe the way you read your Bible on your iPhone gives them fits.

Maybe you can’t stand their traditions and rituals and rites.  People are different.  Hands, feet, and elbows, remember?  Maybe what is utterly empty and repetitious to you is rich with meaning and worship to them.  (Churches steeped in old tradition tend to give me hives, bless them.  But they really speak to some amazing Christians that I know and love, so who am I to say that it’s wrong?)

It isn’t.  It’s just different, and that’s okay.  It just doesn’t matter if you like hymns and I like TobyMac.  We can love each other and even learn from each other, but we have to set down our edged weapons and armored vehicles to do so.

When unity unravels, so do we.

How long can a backstabbing bunch of people stick together?  If we lose sight of what is really important, and Who we have in common, we are goners.  We cannot be more concerned with being right than being obedient.  “Love one another,” Jesus said.  “They will know you are Mine by your love for one another.” (Paraphrase of John 13:35).

Love must be our signature as Christians, and unity must be our tagline.  It has to be.  Otherwise, what are we but a bunch of jackals, snapping and snarling over roadkill?  I want nothing to do with that, and neither does a watching world.  Neither do you, I bet.  But we have to watch out, constantly, for the ways we unconsciously put each other down and build dividing walls.  It can happen without effort.

Here’s the deal.  If I am going to be with you for eternity, you had better learn to love me now.  Some things take practice.  Look across your church foyer.  Those people?  They are yours to love forever, and if you can’t stand them now, how are you going to feel about them a thousand years into it?  Practice.  Work it out.  Pray over it.  Pray over them.

I’m doing the same.  Because I get the privilege and the opportunity to love you.  And to love that diverse, loud, imperfect mob that fills the foyer at my church every Sunday.  It might take years to get it right, but some things are worth doing.  Loving well and authentically…speaking truth and grace…practicing unity…those top the list.

At the Supper Table of the Lamb, I don’t want to sit next to someone I stabbed with a fork twenty years ago.  It’s going to be far more pleasant facing my Father if I did as He said and used my manners with His favorite children.  (Hint: we are all His favorites.)  You with me?

(And just in case you’re nervous…here’s my fork in good faith.)

Grace and peace and here’s to unity,

Kelly

¹ Commonly attributed to Augustine, but here credited to Rupertus Meldenius.

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This entry was posted in Living Intentional and tagged searchingformyeden, unity, weareone.

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