Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Can We Discuss This In Private?

"These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 (NKJV)

"As these disagreements and wrongs surface, why would you ever entrust them to the judgment of people you don't trust in any other way?  I say this as bluntly as I can to wake you up to the stupidity of what you're doing. Is it possible that there isn't one levelheaded person among you who can make fair decisions when disagreements and disputes come up? I don't believe it. And here you are taking each other to court before people who don't even believe in God! How can they render justice if they don't believe in the God of justice?" - 1 Corinthians 6:4-6 (Message)

I remember that, late in 2006, I was walking through the lobby of my church, in a building that we were sharing with a school.  It was late, and I was ready to go home.  As I passed by the school's reception desk, I noticed a recent issue of Time Magazine.  Normally, I wouldn't have cared to stop and look, but the cover story caught my attention: "Does God Want You To Be Rich?"  As I picked up the issue and began to read, my heart sank within me.

Here we had extremely high-profile preachers of the gospel going toe-to-toe, discussing the doctrine of prosperity (a topic we'll address at a later date.)  Normally, it wouldn't matter that these preachers were discussing this, or even that two of the most renowned of them were obviously at opposite ends of the discussion.  The problem was this: Time Magazine, a secular publication, was being given the opportunity to play referee over a divisive issue in the American Church.  This was especially troubling with one of the preachers referring to the other's viewpoint as, and I quote, "baloney," which was obviously the most mature term one can use in a debate, right?

Anyway, the article took me to the scripture mentioned at the beginning of this post.  The apostle Paul gave specific instructions about letting disputes like this be judged in the eye of a world that doesn't understand spiritual things: DON'T DO IT!  Now I realize that, in the actual context of 1 Corinthians 6, he's talking about lawsuits, but doesn't the same reasoning seem to apply here?  Why would we, who are supposed to represent the body of Christ as a whole, want to put any division in the body on display for the whole world to see?  Where is the positive witness in that?  According to 1 Corinthians 2, they can't even understand what we're talking about, so why would we include them in the discussion? 

What adds to this is the irony of  these passages being written in 1 Corinthians (to understand this point better, click the "Why This Blog?" link at the top of the page.)

Now, we as Christians know how to handle disputes (or at least we should.)  Can we agree to this?  Can we do what Paul did and determine, at least as far as the world is concerned, to not know anything except for Christ and Him crucified?  For now, that's all they need know.  The disagreements?  Let's keep those internal.  We can address and discuss them, but let's not drag the world into the debate. 

Now, let me say this: are there certain things that are going to come out anyway?  Will the media still try and take things that go on inside the Church and spin them negatively?  Will the darkness of this world still do everything it can to tarnish the name of Christ in the eyes of those who need Him most?  Yes, these things will happen.  Here's the difference: when they ask us for our opinion, let's stick to the company line, "Christ and Him crucified."  Is it OK for them to know that we don't agree on everything?  Yes, that's fine, but let's not go dragging our brothers and the differences in their beliefs through the mud just for the sake of some press, or for the sake of establishing our doctrinal superiority.  There's too many lives at stake for us to have any selfish ambition or gross division among us.

Let's keep our message to the world simple: "Jesus loves you, and you need Him."  That's what wins the lost.  Let's keep the rest of the discussion between us.

If you'd like to read the Time Magazine article, just click the link below:  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448-1,00.html

Thank you for your continued support, and for spreading the word about Psalm 133.

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