I’ve been having a lot of long, deep talks with Christian friends lately. Time after time, I hear from people about divisiveness in the church. You know… those big issues that people can just get SO angry about. I’m sure you can think of some, but here’s a sample of what I’ve heard lately: stay-at-home vs working mom; breastfeeding vs formula; the definition of modesty; how we’re to respond to social activism causes; birth control; Santa Claus. The role of women in the church. The list goes on… and on… and on. People get SO angry about what are essentially little things. They aren’t salvation issues.
I’m sharing this with you in the hopes of pushing my friends to seek unity. There are some problems that are salvation issues, greatly worth fighting for. Others are more about sanctification – becoming more Christlike while we are still walking this earth. I believe in fighting for truth in salvation doctrine, while being much more forgiving in the issues of sanctification. Basically, it’s about being true to the Bible, while walking in grace. Need examples?
Salvation issue: Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Anyone who speaks otherwise is telling a lie. It’s black and white, and very much worth standing up for the truth.
Sanctification issue: Modesty. Yes, it’s commanded in Scipture: “I want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” (1 Timothy 2:9). But Scripture doesn’t define modesty as only ankle length skirts… or knee length… or mid-back length hair… or never cut hair… or a specific amount of ease across the chest. Look all day, but I’ll tell you, it isn’t there. This is a gray area. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate grace to our sisters, encouraging and teaching them, but not something to beat over the head about. Where there is no clear Biblical teaching, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide. When in doubt, be truthful but loving.
Salvation issue: Christ is the sole sufficient sacrifice for sin; nothing else will do. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Also, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (Hebrews 10:26). Once again, very clear truth that we must defend.
Sanctification issue: Birth control. There’s so many issues rolled up into this that I truly believe there is no one right answer for each family. First we have the “control” issue – who should control births, God or us? Or is there ever a time when a particular family is called by God to either give birth or prevent it? There are some clear distinctions here (specifically, not murdering an unborn child), but also a ton of gray. And this whole issue rolls right into my belief in seasons of life and faith (which I’m writing a post about right now!). But my current point is this: where there is no clear teaching, there must be room for grace.
I guess this is just a sweet holiday reminder, as much to myself as to anyone else. Where the Bible draws a firm line we are to “stand firm and let nothing move you” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Where there is gray, let us “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
May God bless you and all your interactions with believers this season!